A year of reflection

As this year comes to a close I have spent some time reflecting on what we have learnt.

It has not been an easy year.  But then it was never going to be.

I knew moving was going to be hard, but it was more challenging then I could have imagined.  I grieved deeply for my friendships and my community.  But nearly one year on, I have learnt that some people will always be in your life, no matter how far the distance between you.  Technology does help to bridge the gap and true friendships will always remain over vast distance because the things that brought you together are so strong they cannot be diluted.   

Money has been far tighter than we expected it to be, Grant has taken a significant hit in pay.  The sustainable logging which we thought would happen early in 2019 to help us get on our feet here is now not happening until early 2020.  As a result, many of the things we thought we would have up and running by now like sufficient and reliable power, water and building have all taken far more time to manage on a weekly basis.  This has often been disheartening, tiring and frustrating.  It regularly feels like one step forward and two steps backwards.  But as I look around nearly 12 months on, there is a lot we have achieved.

If you had of asked me two years ago if we would be living in a yurt I would have laughed.  But now it has become an ordinary part of our life.  

Currently, the inside of the yurt does not look at all like this.  It is instead a building site with the framework of the loft going up.  I look forward to sharing progress photos once I can capture it a little more clearly.  But this was our starting point.  

Firstly we actually did it.  We looked at what we truly wanted in life and took a giant leap into the unknown to pursue it, and we didn't drown.  We spluttered a few times sure, but together we are still here.  Our marriage is stronger then it has ever been and throughout this year Grant and I have grown closer than I could have imagined, even after 13 years of marriage.  He still drives me completely mental at times of course, but no doubt I have one or two slightly irritating habits also.  (Maybe)  This move has required us to pull together, to communicate more clearly and to put down our differences so we can move forward together.  It is easy to argue when things go wrong, it is harder to show compassion, grace and understanding.

We have been forced to simplify.  A lot.

I always thought we lived a pretty simple life but now it is on a totally different level.  I have had to learn to budget really hard just to make ends meet.  I always enjoyed op-shopping and up-cycling but if I'm honest convenience and instant gratification would win out far more then I intended.  By stripping back our lives completely I have been forced to exercise my will-power and truly reflect on what and why I bought things.  I'm really proud to say that now the practice of our lives is far more in alignment with our values.

This is not to say it is perfect.  I would love to only buy ethically and sustainably but I cannot usually afford too.  Not if I want to put healthy, nourishing food on the table for my family, have fuel in the car and pay the bills.  But what I can do is buy only what we truly need, buy second hand whenever possible and adapt or up-cycle.  Now the only clothing items we buy from chain stores are cotton undergarments, Grants high visibility work shirts, and basic cotton singlets/long sleeve tops and leggings which are staples in my simple wardrobe.  I find these basic items are nearly impossible to find in op-shops in good condition as most people wear them to the point of wearing out.  However, outer layers like cardigans, dresses, jumpers, shorts, tee-shirts, pants, linens and household items are quite readily found in excellent condition second hand.  So I do the best I can with what we have and choose to buy natural fibres where ever possible when buying new.  I have learnt to adapt my style to suit this way of consuming, and if anything I feel like I have discovered a style that is more 'me' and re-discovered the fun to be had in dressing, creating and sewing.

I recently bought a homemade skirt made with yards and yards of fabric from the op-shop for 50c from the clearance rack.  It was totally shapeless, way too big and way too long.  I bought it anyway thinking it would either be good use as fabric for another project or I could remake it into something I could wear.  The other day I pulled it out, took it up, took it in and rummaged through my sewing stash for some sweet contrasting fabric to use as big patch pockets.  I then re-threaded new elastic into the waist and now I have a fun, unique skirt that will adapt with my ever-changing pregnant shape.  Grant thinks it's very cute and that I look like Peter Rabbits Mum, but I'm totally ok with that.  Because skirts with pockets are the best!    

The same goes for building materials.  It would be quicker and easier to go to Bunnings and buy what we need.  But this year we have had to exercise our patience to slowly salvage and collect second-hand building materials.  We still need to buy some items new like the yellow tongue flooring for the loft and quality heavy-duty bolts and screws, but the big hardwood beams and 2x4 timber posts are all second hand, as is the cladding for the internal walls.  This means the environmental footprint of our tiny building project is significantly reduced, as is the overall cost.  Win-win!  The mezzanine of the yurt is coming along well, and I look forward to sharing some progress shots over the next week or two.

Living like this resonates deeply within me.  There is much we are doing imperfectly, that I want to improve but there is also a whole lot of stuff we are doing really well.  It is easy to look at Instagram and other people out there who are writing about their simple, zero waste lives, and then feel like we are not reaching the bar.

Simple rituals and cute op-shopped vintage items.  

But it is important to remember that simple living, reducing waste and up-cycling is not the consumer-based model in which the majority of the world lives in.  It is hard, systems are not set up for it and as a result of needing to live and work within that system, our actions will often be imperfect.  But it doesn't mean we can't try our best anyway and continue to make meaningful changes in our daily lives.

For me, the biggest influence in making major changes has been the removal of convenience.  The removal of grid based power means we had to work out how to use less power or risk having none.  The removal of mains water means we have had to become incredibly conscious of what water we use.  The removal of money has forced us to totally simplify and change the way we live.  A small example of a change inspired by the removal of an item is that we no longer buy glad wrap and haven't for a long time.  If it's not in the house, then it cannot be relied upon.  We didn't research all the different options as a replacement, we simply removed it from our lives and got on with making do without it.  This for us has proven to be the best method of making changes, to simply jump in and get on with the task at hand.  No matter how big or small.

Kids are great at making do with what's on hand and creating their own free fun.  The boys love making cubbies in the bush and they take their own picnics down to the creek and disappear for hours.  They are not far from us in reality and we can hear/see them but they feel like they are a world away.

Sometimes endless research into the 'best solution' can be paralyzing, and whilst our method of radical removal of things from our lives may not be everyone's cup of tea, it has proven to create a powerful shift for us in ensuring the life we live is in alignment with the life we value.  It is perhaps the thing I am most grateful for amongst this move.

Today when I look around I see our little yurt which is slowly but steadily becoming a beautiful, functional home for our family.  I see new budding friendships, happy settled kids thriving at their new school.  I look out at the farm and I see the magic of the landscape that called us to this beautiful place.

No, this move hasn't been easy.  There has been tears, worries, stress and heartache.  But it has been worth every second and I know in my heart of hearts we made the right decision in coming here.

Besides, what's the fun of life without the occasional mad adventure, right?

Much love,

Home safe

We are relieved to share we are home, and that we still have a home (well yurt) to return too.  Sadly not everyone is so lucky.  Including people just a little further up our road.  

But by golly, it has been a long, exhausting and stressful week.  The fires are still burning, though the ones near us are considered to be 'under control'.  The firies have been doing an amazing job of fighting the fires, back burning and building fire breaks.  Working in crews around the clock.  Hopefully, these fires will now begin to burn themselves out though everyone remains on high alert for spot fires.  

 Home, it was good to see this little place of ours.  

Devastating bushfires at the farm

Hello there dear readers.

Some of you may be wondering if we live in an area which is being impacted by the horrendous  bushfires in NSW.  We do.  In fact the edge of the fire as I write this is 1km away from our property.

A map of the fire zone.  The black shaded area is the fire ground, the red is the predicted burn area today.  Our property and home sit well within the red zone. 

As a result of horrendous weather predictions for today (Tuesday) we have evacuated into Wauchope.  We are grateful all our animals are safe with loving people in emergency care.  Aggie remains with us at the motel as does Bear who is not great with strangers and of course Squirtle the turtle, who is currently living in a rather unglamorous Tupperware container.

We are expecting a hot north-westerly which is going to swing the fire around.  This will mean the edge which is currently burning away from us is going to swing towards us, bringing the fire onto our property in no time.  The fire is predicted to burn hot, move fast and leave a wake of heartache and devastation behind it.

The firies have been working around the clock setting up containment lines and back burning in preparation.  They are amazing.

Frustratingly, we had extensive fire protection plans for the property.  We intended to get large galv header tanks, a big pump and install a substantial sprinkler system by next summer, but we didn’t have the funds to do it yet.  Our little yurt is in a large green clearing, with a good road in and out.  If there happens to be a truck in the right time our place it is defendable.  But the fire zone is huge and resources are stretched beyond capacity.  As a result, it is highly possible there will be no firies available for many of the properties under threat.  There are simply too many properties to defend and the fires are too big.  We know from the Pinery Fires in which we nearly lost Grant, just how bad things get and how fast conditions can change.

Like many others, we don’t know if we will have a home to return to tomorrow.

I feel sick to think we could lose it all again, whilst pregnant.  Again.  (There is a post here about the time we were displaced and lost everything in a flood when I was 34 weeks pregnant with Angus, you can search for it but I can’t easily link from my phone). We know that road and it is brutal, heartbreaking and exhausting.

But tonight as I sit wondering how the hell we are going to be able to piece back our family and our lives if the worst happens, I’m here ask you this; If you have a little spare cash, please donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service.  These men and women are legends, working huge days around the clock.  Literally fighting to save lives and homes.  Real life actual superhero’s.

If you are a person of faith please pray for the safety and protection of the brave men and women who risking it all for us.  Pray for the weather conditions to be milder than expected, for roads to remain clear and for the safety of the people, homes and animals in the fire ground.

Then act.  Please consider donating what you can, however big or small to the NSW Rural Fire Service or a charity that is helping with recovery.  The recovery process is going to be huge, complex and long.  It will take years.  Some people won’t ever fully recover both physically or mentally.

I ask you to please donate money over goods.  Money gives people back some choice and power to purchase items they want, rather than make do with whatever they get.  It may seem small, but when you have no choice about what has happened to your home and your future those little things like choosing a brand of toothpaste your kid actually likes and buying your favourite brand of coffee make a huge difference.  They begin to return a persons sense of control and autonomy over their lives which is something that is taken away when you lose your home to a natural disaster.

I’m not sure when I’ll be back in this space.

Much love,

PS please excuse my typos, this post has been written on my phone as I’m currently unsure where my laptop is among our belongings gathered together in a hurry. The dark, poorly taken phone photo is the edge of the fire from our place the night before we evacuated.  It was still this night and the fire was burning more slowly.

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