Sunday, October 16, 2011

Utopia and Flying Pigs

Over the weekend two friends and I went to Fremantle to participate in a facilitator’s course so that we can offer a program locally on creating a more sustainable life. I really enjoyed the weekend and learnt a lot about my own sustainable journey, gained inspiration and direction. And of course I picked up some good facilitation tips which are what I went for in the first place.

We spent 3 days learning and discussing and one of the things that particularly stood out to me in conversation was people’s desire for Utopia. By our very nature we are constantly looking for ‘more’ and what stands out in the sustainability crowd is this idea of a Sustainably Holy Grail. A fictional place with lush green meadows, singing birds, rainbows and none of the ‘bad’ things we have in our current life that we are trying to get away from. A place that meets all our needs - physical, emotional and mental - and a good deal of our wants.

For some this is growing their own food, throwing grain to the chickens clucking around at their feet, plucking carrots from the soil, giving them a light brush off and taking a big crunchy bite. For others it is working in the office of their passive solar straw bale home, watching their kids play outside through their triple glazed windows while they tap away at the keys of their laptop that’s powered by the solar panels on their roof.

I understand the need to have a goal, a future, a direction that you can aim towards. But an important step in long-term goal setting is working backwards from that end point to today and creating measurable steps to lead you there. The fervent talkers, with a far off look in their eyes recite their perfect ideals and lofty dreams of ‘somewhere else’ and seem to miss this point. (Have you noticed how this utopia is generally in another location from where they are?)

Certainly no existing village, town, city or country has everything sorted in a way that can be sustained for the future. There is no place that is perfect – even if we could define what it would look like – and if there was, the world is a changing place so it is unlikely to stay that way. Peak oil, climate change, the re-emergence of certain diseases in our society, bacterial mutations, waste and natural disasters are just a few of the things that will affect every place on Earth.

There is NO Utopia. By focusing on Utopia you are actually preventing growth and change where you are right now. Every person, family and community needs to make changes that balance economics, society and environment and define what sustainability means to them. There is room for improvement and change in every setting and it’s up to us to make them happen.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I have been thinking about resolutions today. I don't normally make them, but I have been hit by a need to get more organised. I think things could run more smoothly and that I could use my time more efficiently.

The housework always manages to get done, even when the timetable is overloaded. Creative time, on the other hand, seems to evaporate when the schedule gets busy. The garden gets a bit neglected. The sewing room door remains shut. The days seem too full for fun and I hit the pillow worn out but not tired.

I have learnt over the last couple of months that I need time to be creative. It makes me a much happier person and fulfills me in a way that other activities can't. Whether it be sewing, drawing, writing, painting or crafting, I feel more positive when that need has been met.

I want to smile more, laugh and be open to the possibilities that present themselves. I want to say yes more often.

I want to relax more. To take those small opportunities of calm and peace whenever they arise.

I want to focus more on my health and write exercise that I enjoy into my days. Whether it be going for walk along the beach, riding our bikes, yoga in the backyard or jumping on the trampoline. When we are fit and strong, the day always seems easier and you sleep better.

The garden planner needs to be synced into my daily timetable. I have this dream that our garden can feed us the majority of our fruit and veg. At this stage though there are gaps in the seasons. We have weeks without lettuce and then a glut and that sort of thing. This is all about planning, whether you have a food forest or a high intensity system.

I want to plant weekly. Seeds and seedlings. Most of our seedlings are raised from seed in a small hothouse, so that requires some forethought. There also needs to be time for harvesting and preserving. Jams, dehydrating, bottling.

Part of harvesting and preserving is menu planning our nightly meals. I love to get up in the morning and already have dinner organised. I know what to prepare and that I have everything in the pantry/freezer/garden to make it. Focusing on seasonal eating is definitely cheaper, fresher and easier to get locally.

I generally write out a list of eight meals for the week and then we just pick and choose on the day. On our days that are full of outings, I like to have everything prepared in the morning and I keep it simple. It prevents those fast and unhealthy meals that can become a very poor substitute.

DragonGirl is year four this year. Even though we do a blend of life-learning and unschooling and our schedule has been pretty relaxed up until now, I feel it is time for a little more structure. It is partly about her prefered learning style and partly about me needing more time to do the things I need/want to do too.

One of the positives of home educating is that we can tailor our timetable and focus to suit our needs, and to make changes as the need arises.

Corby has been home for a week which has been great. Going to the beach, riding our bikes, watching dvds, sleeping in (even the kids did a few times!), going out at midnight to watch fireworks, painting Boo's bike, reading, snuggling on the couch outside. All nourishing to us and our relationships.

Besides catching up as a family and relaxing, it has given me the space to plan and prepare for the term. It has been a week of recharging, refocusing and reconnecting. I am very thankful that we've had it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Summer gifts and parties

I have been busy in the sewing room making fabric and felt playmats, birds, books and other bits and pieces. I have received orders for 6 playmats, 18 birds and 2 book holders in the last couple of weeks.

The playmats are for orders for Christmas presents. I have settled on two designs that I then vary as required.

Here is an animal mat that DragonGirl set-up for me so I could take some photos. I had planned on making them more detailed but as I was sewing I kept simplifying and refining. As it turns out, that was the best option and it opens it up for the kids to be creative and imaginative.

And here is the other design. The car mat suits matchbox-sized cars.

A close up of 'Reepicheep'. DragonGirl had fun playing and planning with the mat. I think I will make her one for Christmas too.

Simple felt buildings.

The idea of the mats is that they are portable and low fuss. You could easily add 3-dimensional buildings, trees and other accessories. I have been making felt trees that have a circle of velcro on the bottom which sticks well to the felt.

Being the season of festivities, we decided to hold our annual Summer party. We had a great turn out of friends and neighbours, lots of food (we're still eating the leftovers!) and fun for the kids.
I had colouring pages, air-dry clay, a loom frame for a nature weave and other activities ready to go. DragonGirl had planned on having egg and spoon races, a rope pull and some sack races but we didn't get around to it. The kids were having far too much fun on our other party guest...

There were 22 kids on the day and at one point they were all on there. They all had so much fun and I think it was money well spent.

Over the afternoon people went off to other parties and family dinners and we were left with a couple of close friends and a very light dinner after eating all day.

Last night our favourite neighbours joined us for dinner (leftovers!) and we lit the small fire. The back patio is so much warmer and more comfortable when the wind is blowing now that the end wall is up.

We have little on this week and it's going to be nice to just wind down to Solstice and Christmas Day. Corby is home for a week which will be good. A week spent at the beach if all goes to plan. :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A day at the park

We needed a break away from our busy schedule and decided to head to the park for a run with the ducks.

Even though we homeschool and so avoid the hectic school routine, this time of year always seems to fill up with socialising, planning and preparing. Activities come to an end, with parties and performances. There is food to make, cards to write and post, costumes to sew, handmade presents, planting Summer and Autumn veg and preserving the harvest.

In amongst all that we needed some time to just relax, so we packed a picnic, some food for the ducks, our nature journals and got on our bikes. Despite it being a little windy, the weather was gorgeous.

We love the space at the park to run around. Boo finds the biggest leaves he can and flaps along behind the ducks. It he wasn't following them, they were following him, hoping to get a snack.

There are some lovely old trees to climb. Some are easy to get up into but others require a boost. DragonGirl tried them all out of course. She is needing less and less boosting these days as she gets ever taller.

We gathered leaves, feathers and seeds for craft activities. We've been making wreathes, solstice decorations, seasonal dolls, collage and doing some nature weaving on a big loom made from prunings from the garden.
I took some photos of interesting textures that I will use in my art journal.
We wandered from one end of the park to the other. Around the lake, up the hill and back - all the while the ducks were waddling along behind.

Boo was as cheeky as always!

After spinning around and around, she was laying down on the grass and watching the sky spin.

The wonderful thing about taking a break from our daily activities, is that it actually makes us more productive. We come home refreshed and ready to get on with it. It reinvigorates us for current projects and inspires new directions.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Winter Activities

Winter is creeping in. We hit -0 this morning, just as the sun was rising. All the deciduous fruit trees have dropped their leaves. We've been lighting the fire each night for a couple of weeks. And I've started planning more activities for rainy days.

We have been doing some felting and DragonGirl is keen to try out some tie-dyeing. We've got a couple of shirts prepared with elastic bands, marbles and knots and will apply the dye today. We've been on YouTube to get different technique ideas.

DragonGirl is working on a project most days. At the moment she is doing Wolves, so we have been reading about wolves, watching nature DVDs, drawing, making masks, exploring the idea of The Big Bad Wolf in stories and she is creating a lapbook.

We've also been making candles from flat beeswax sheets, carving candles, making candle holders from vines and repurposed glasses and playing endless amounts of Lego!

Boo has been helping me in the garden this morning. We planted out some more lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower in a sheltered, sunny spot of the garden. He also helped me to feed the animals and get the eggs.

He has been surprising me lately with his helpfulness. The other night he grabbed a teatowel to dry the dishes. He couldn't reach the sink, but did a very good job of drying the dishes and putting them away. It seemed like such a Big Boy thing for him to do. Though Grandma said that Big Boys aren't nearly as helpful...

The main focus in the garden at the moment is covering the ground. I've been marking out the rest of the garden beds out the back and plan on covering them with paper, hay, manure and compost. It will minimise rain compacting any bare soil and also prevent the grass from growing like mad. Last year we had to use the trimmer to keep the grass down because the ground was too wet to mow.

But for now, the sun is shining, so I think we'll take our bikes up to the park and record what we see in our Nature Journal's.