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Wallowing in self pity

5 Aug

Today I attended the second CYF workshop on Ways to Care, which is preparing people for becoming foster or adoptive parents. I’m not going to go into details about that, but I have been feeling rather bummed out ever since. Nothing to do with the workshop, even.

No, I’m feeling bummed out because most of the people in that room were extremely well dressed, in what appear to be solid relationships [I know it is not always clear from external appearances], with important jobs (judging from the amount of phone calls and txts that happened on expensive phones in the breaks). Although I am a fairly confident person and they were all nice, and I contributed plenty of valid ideas, I felt self conscious. Because I was there in my op shop clothes, on my own.

I know plenty of single mothers, and I think they’re great. But I don’t want any of their lifestyles. All the single mothers I know stress about money on a regular basis. I’m not someone who’s inclined to stress, and yet I began to really stress about money when I became a single mum. I think of all the people I know who have several beautiful children, big houses, loving husbands, plenty of money, etc. And I just feel really really bummed out.

I was raised by a single mother, and I have never known what it’s like to not worry about money, what it’s like not to feel like it’s a constant battle to ‘get by’, since I knew what money was.

I wanted a big family, and a loving husband, and a nice place to live. Well, I married a jerk (and subsequently left him after his behaviour became increasingly unacceptable), and have never lived in a place I really liked.  My pregnancy was so traumatic that I’m scared to go through it again, and given that I needed so many medical interventions (five anti nausea drugs, two heartburn drugs, various supplements, IV fluids, NG tube, a lot of monitoring and ultrasounds and tests, a cesarean section), I feel I would be unlikely to survive another pregnancy if I did not have access to all that free medical care. Which is entirely possible, given what is happening in the world.

I don’t want to be alone forever. I tell myself: I’m still young. I’m only 24. I have lots to bring to a relationship. But I don’t know how to meet people, how to date. I met my husband when I was 19. I was in the dating phase so briefly that I barely remember the rules. I miss having someone’s hand to hold. I hate doing the housework and I get really bored with the mundane things in life, because there’s no one to do it with. No one to have conversations with or laugh with. I spend too much time on the computer, hoping someone will talk to me on Facebook or Skype, reading chatty blogs – because I’m so lonely once my playgroups are over and my son is in bed and my friends are spending time with their ‘other half’.

I don’t want to get trapped into thinking a man will ‘save me’. I was raised by a feminist, after all. But I don’t think it’s their manliness that I perceive as the saviour. It’s having someone to share life with.

I read this blog post about a mum’s trip to Kenya. And I was struck mostly by the statement: Kenyan women are never lonely. For a moment, I actually felt envious of women whose children have aids, who have to get up at 4am to wait two hours in a line to get water, who live in utter poverty. I envied them their community. I can see how that makes their otherwise desperately difficult lives livable.

I’m trying to move back to my hometown, where I have more of a community, where life will be that little bit easier, but my son’s father will fight me. I can understand why. Believe me, the thought of separating my son from his father causes me endless anxiety and guilt. But I felt that way before I left the marriage, and I don’t regret that in the least. And in all honesty, I don’t trust my son’s feelings to be safe in his father’s hands when he is older. Mine never were. I don’t think he is a good role model. I want my baby to have a Dad who loves him, but actually: I don’t want him to be around all the time. That doesn’t change the fact that I could be facing a long custody battle if I try to move away.

I know that I should count my blessings. And believe me, I often do. I’m not depressed and I’m not angry, I’m just bummed. I know that many of those wealthy well-dressed happily-married course participants would give anything to have a beautiful little child like I do. That’s why they were there. I’m usually pretty positive.

But right now, I’m feeling crap, and I’m wallowing in it.

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Some encouragement to keep doing ‘this’

27 Jun

I wrote the title of this post and then thought “What is ‘this’?”

‘This’ can alternately be described as ‘turning into the kind of hippy my teenage self would be horrified at’, and ‘becoming a responsible citizen’. It seems that nowadays, being a responsible adult means paying your bills and keeping the wheels of the industrial cog turning. That’s not enough. It never was, but particularly not anymore. So for me, ‘this’ is learning how to live a good life. ‘This’ is following the green dream, and turning it into the norm.

Sometimes it’s really hard. I’d like things to be a bit simpler sometimes. But let’s forget all the difficulties for the moment. The important thing, when it comes down to it, is that this is all important stuff. And in many ways, it’s really exciting and challenging too! (Challenging is usually a positive word in my vocabulary.)

Today I started reading this cool little e-book: Ten ways to Chillax and Have Fun as you Live Your Green Dreams. I recommend checking it out. I think the title is pretty self explanatory, so enough from me.

The Story of Ten Ways to Chillax and Have Fun As You Live Your Green Dreams from Happy Writers on Vimeo.

My hopes and dreams…

17 Jun

… are currently tied up in this place: Atamai Village, near Motueka, in the South Island of New Zealand.

Doesn’t it look amazing?

Me and my Grandma on the piece of land my Mum is hoping to buy at Atamai. What a view, eh?! (My Mum is behind the lens, which is how she prefers it. The baby is asleep in the carrier.)

My Mum is in negotiations to move there. I hope someday I can too. I think about it every day. I’m working really hard to try and earn money to save, increase my useful skills*, and generally walk the walk. How I long to be part of it.

*I just sent off enrolment forms to study a Certificate in Organic Horticulture, and a Certificate in Landscape Design. Part time distance learning, of course. 

Rubbish free solutions – supermarket shopping

11 Jun

Food is my biggest source of rubbish. So, aside from overnight disposable nappies, it is my first port of call to reduce my waste.

Dairy

I LOVE cheese. Any and all kinds of cheese. One day I will learn how to make it and then I will be cheese-rubbish-free, but til then, I’m allowing myself a block of cheese. A 1kg block of tasty cheddar lasts me a month, so it’s not too much rubbish. But I also sometimes buy camembert (about the only cheese I can afford outside of cheddar!) so I will cut down on that. If you have a larger budget than mine there are specialty cheese shops and delis where you can buy a chunk of cheese off the round, and wrap it in your own cloth or reused plastic bag.

Milk is fine, because I can recycle the bottles. Thanks, council. But even better would be to get it direct off a farm in a reused glass bottle. I’m not in a situation to source that, but you might be! Same goes for juice here; the bottles are recyclable.

Yoghurt containers can also be recycled where I am, which is handy. But I might try making my own. All you need is milk and some active culture. (And pots and thermometer and spoon.)

Personally I prefer butter to margarine. I don’t use a lot of it, so a block of butter lasts a while, unless I have a baking spree. According to myzerowaste.com, you can compost the butter wrapper, but fatty foods can attract rats so only compost it if you have a well fitting lid.

Fruit

Plant some fruit trees.

Arrange a swap with your neighbours fruit trees.

Order an organic vege box. This is my favoured option.

Go to a farmers market and take your own bags.

If you must buy fruit from the supermarket, reuse plastic bags, or don’t use them at all. If the checkout operator gives you a funny look as your fruit rolls on to the scales, smile and say ‘I’m cutting down on plastic bags’. Or ignore it, smug with the knowledge that you are helping the planet, even if they think you’re annoying.

Veges

Same as for fruit above, except it’s easier, quicker, and takes less space to grow veges.

I love the organic boxes. But farmers markets are also good.

And unlike buying multiple pieces of fruit, you usually don’t need plastic bags for vegies anyway.

Snacks

Cutting down on rubbish around snacks requires more of an attitude shift. These things are all about the packaging. Here are some snacks I like, and how I’m going to reduce my rubbish with them:

Bhuja mix. Crunchy and peanut-y, yum! This stuff comes in the bulk bins at the supermarket, so I’m going to reuse the same bag. It’ll even have the right number on it already! This goes for lots of things in the bulk bins. Nuts, rice crackers, dried fruit. All good snacks that have reusable packaging.

Crackers. I usually buy the organic corn thins because they don’t have lots of extra ingredients; emulsifiers and preservatives and MSG and flavours and all that. So they are a handy snack to give to the toddler. The outside plastic bag can be reused as storage as I won’t be buying clingfilm, but I’m not sure what to do about the foil inner. Maybe this is one of the things, like the cheese wrapper, that I have to accept for the meantime. I’ve tried making crackers a few times before and they were failures. So I don’t really want to try again and waste food.

Biscuits. Yummy but not terribly good for you. Still, it’s nice to have some on hand for when visitors pop round or you want a quick sweet munch. Easy way to cut down on waste – bake them yourself! I have even made raw cookies and they were delicious.

Chips… just don’t bother. I used to love chips, but when I gave in to my weaker self and bought some the other day, I found that I finally didn’t enjoy them. Woohoo!

Muesli bars are fairly easy to make. I don’t buy them usually but I’m quite tempted to make some.

Grains

I will now only buy my grains in the bulk bins and reuse the bags.

Bread

Now that I know I can successfully make wholemeal bread, I plan to make two loaves at a time, and that will mean no plastic waste. My flour comes in paper bags which can be recycled or composted, the oil comes in glass, the honey and yeast in reusable containers. The only thing that comes in a plastic bag is the salt, so I will have to investigate other options for salt.

Meat

I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I might suss out the local butcher for the little that I do.

Frozen goods

I do tend to keep frozen peas, corn, and pastry in the freezer. I guess I’ll have to make pastry from scratch (and if I can’t be bothered, that’s probably better for me!). As far as the veges go, I think I will allow myself that. It’s good to have backup veges and they don’t get used up quickly so it won’t be much waste. Once I have a garden I can obviously freeze my own produce.

Cleaning products

I thought there wasn’t a Bin Inn in Wellington, but apparently there’s a new store in Lower Hutt. Great! Bin Inn have bulk cleaning products on tap, as well as all the ingredients you need to make your own. Their website has recipes and tips if you click on the ‘Cleaning’ tab. I will have to do this bit slowly, as I have cleaning products and it would be silly to waste them.

Cutting down on waste

10 Jun

Remember these guys?

When I first saw this segment on Campbell Live I remember being almost disbelieving. Only one plastic bag of rubbish? How is that possible? Do these people eat? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that they were really on to something. Rubbish plays a huge part in our modern lifestyles. We are so used to being able to pick up a packet of anything, and then throw it away. You can buy apple slices in the supermarket, wrapped in plastic. You can buy individually wrapped slices of cheese and crackers, which are then packaged in a container. It’s quite absurd. It has got to the point where we don’t think things are safe unless they are triple wrapped. Last night I stopped by the Organic Gypsy wellness blog, written by one of my readers (hi!). Her top post was about how zero waste is hard. It is! But not impossible. I figure it’s like transitioning from a standard to a raw diet. It requires a radical change in thinking and habits, and may involve slipping back before the change is complete. So I’m going to start now.

According to rubbishfree.co.nz, there are now estimated to be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square kilometre of every ocean in the world, and in the past 25 years in NZ, we’ve increased what we throw away by 73%. If we put our waste onto a rugby field we’d have a pile 30 stories high – every month!

I feel like I want to justify myself to Waveney and Matthew on the rubbishfree website. But you don’t have a baby. It’s harder with a baby. For example, although I have used cloth nappies with my son from birth, I have also put him in a disposable nappy overnight. They hold more moisture and pull the wetness away from him so he doesn’t wake up wet. I really like getting a good nights sleep and it sucks to be woken up and have to change his nappy (and his outfit) and get him back to sleep. But having said that, he occasionally wets through his disposable too, so I may as well at least give it a go with the cloth nappy overnight. I have enough inserts; I just hope it won’t be too uncomfortable for him with that much padding round his bum.

So this is my first thing to address. I am feeling myself really resistant to not putting him in a disposable overnight! It’s also winter, and I am occasionally using disposables during the day as well, as I just can’t seem to get the cloth nappies dry in time. It takes a good few days to dry them in this weather. I have one small rack in the hot water cupboard, and a larger rack in the hallway.

The next big thing to address is food waste. I am not particularly careful about the food packaging I buy. To give myself some credit, I do take my reusable shopping bags, and I buy my organic produce in a box, so there aren’t a zillion little plastic bags for each type of fruit. But I don’t think twice about buying a block of cheese, a packet of crackers, some ham in a bag from the deli, frozen peas and corn, snacks. So much plastic! This is going to be a BIG change to make! I’m rather nervous, if I’m totally honest with you.

Another big issue for me is that I don’t have a compost. I left my worm farm behind when my husband and I separated. I now live in the upstairs flat in a block of two. There is a small grassy section at the front which isn’t fenced and is right on the road. The small back section is almost unusable; it gets no sun and is very steep and borders on to bush. I don’t feel comfortable gardening out there with my son toddling around. So, thinking of solutions… I could ask my nice landlord if I can put a compost on the back section – there is a small area that looks reasonably flat, and it won’t be used for anything else. Although some of these changes are difficult, not having a compost goes against the grain. It’s something I have had everywhere I have lived, except for a few months in an apartment when I didn’t cook much anyway. I feel reluctant to ask anything of my landlord, given that I flooded the place the second night I was here, when the washing machine hose popped out of the sink. The floors are having to be relaid and it is a drama. They are very nice, but still…

This post is getting a bit long, so I’ll do another one on zero waste solutions shortly.

Anonymity

5 Jun

Although I often decry the anonymity of the city, I am rather glad I chose to keep this blog anonymous. It allows me to be honest. My friends will think I’m crazy when I tell them that two months after leaving my husband I have decided to pursue both homeschooling and taking in another child.

But here I am.

 

Home for life

5 Jun

For those of you who come here to read my ramblings about Peak Oil and permaculture and raw food and such like, I apologise for my parenting-focused posts of late. It’s just at the forefront of my brain right now, and for some (sometimes annoying) reason, I have no concept of privacy and always need to write my thoughts down.

Although it has only been 7 weeks since my husband and I separated, I am considering more children. I know, I know, but hear me out. I always wanted a big family. At least four children, thanks. Then I got pregnant. What followed was 3 months of hell as I spent seven weeks in hospital with severe nausea and vomiting. As in, all the time. It didn’t stop when I slept. I often didn’t sleep because it didn’t stop. For six days I couldn’t talk or move. It was awful awful awful. Although the severe nausea abated at 16 weeks, I continued to take anti-emetics for the whole pregnancy and felt mildly nauseous most days. It’s hard to imagine how it feels unless you’ve felt it, but it really is hellish.

So I am not in a rush to get pregnant again, but dangit, I love children! I love my little boy more than I can describe (how often have you heard that said?), and I know that there is also room in my heart for more children. When I was still married, permanent foster care or adoption wasn’t an option, because my husband could ‘only love his own children’. Personally, I don’t need to have given birth to a kid to love him/her. So foster care or adoption is actually a really appealing prospect for me.

Last year the NZ government announced a programme called ‘A Home for Life’, where children who can’t go back to their birth families are placed in a ‘home for life’. To me it seems like a different way of going about adopting a child, but I’m sure there are some differences that I’m not aware of. I would love to foster and then permanently care for another child. According to the CYFS website it doesn’t matter if you’re married or single, work full time or stay at home, own your own home or rent. If you have the resilience and love to provide a permanent home for a needy child, they will consider you. They offer financial assistance as well as ongoing support from a social worker.

I have more than enough room in my heart, and I’m sure my son would love a brother or sister. The idea of there being unloved children in the world has always made me incredibly sad. I used to want to start up my own orphanage or child’s refuge where I can nurture children who have been neglected. (I was only a child myself at the time.) I know it’s not easy to look after a child who has had a traumatic start to life, and it’s not easy to ‘get’ a child. But I have no doubt that ‘Home for Life’ or something similiair is something I can do. So I am seriously considering applying. I’d like to attend their seminars and find out more information. My only hesitancy is that I really love babies and I’m guessing they have more older children who need homes. I’m confident with babies but I’m not sure how to deal with older children who have been abused, neglected, or otherwise traumatised. But that is something to think about further down the line.

Schooling in the context of Peak Oil

5 Jun

With all this thinking I’ve been doing about homeschooling, I have come to the point of considering it particularly in the context of Peak Oil. I’ll be honest here; if I thought society were to continue on as it currently is, then I would be more reluctant to homeschool. I don’t want my kid to be the weird one. I was the poor hippie kid with a single mum and was bullied at primary school and while this is part of the reason I am interested in homeschooling, it’s also part of my personal stigma against it. I wanted my kids to be normal.

Despite the fact that I now recognise the goodness of much of my childhood and appreciate the great things my alternative mum did for me, I am not quite over the desire to just fit in. The other day I was at the Southern Cross for a free mama massage, and a mother there had pikelets for her daughter. I thought ‘what a good snack idea’ and resolved to make some. Mine were made with wholemeal flour, A2 milk, free range eggs, honey, and oats and raisins, rather than white flour and sugar. I watched my son devour them and thought ‘uh oh, I’ve turned into that parent’. I’m glad that my son is eating more nutritious pikelets, but part of me still wants him to be the normal kid I never was.

However, I have been thinking that by the time my son would be due to start school (2015), there may not be the option of public schooling anyway. If there is, it could be so radically different that it either becomes really valuable and I won’t need to homeschool, or even worse than it already is because there are fewer resources but parents have to send their kids there. I don’t know exactly what impact the energy crisis will have on schooling, but it will be massive, just like everything else.

In the post-crisis world, I foresee that my kid won’t be weird for not going to school. Perhaps we will have a return to more traditional tribal / village life; where the kids learn what they need to know to survive. He won’t be the odd one out. Of course I will teach him to read and write and other academic things. But he will get much more use out of learning about how to grow vegetables and build a compost, how to bake bread and preserve fruit, how to carve wood and weave baskets, how to fix things and build things, how to mediate and listen, care for chickens, and understand the weather.

It definitely sounds like I am leaning more towards unschooling, but I think as many homeschoolers have found their own paths, I will find my own path too.

It also sounds like I have made up my mind, which I haven’t. But perhaps I have and just haven’t admitted it to myself yet.

An update and some thoughts on eating organically

29 May

My lovely toddler and I are now settled in to our new two bedroom flat. It is clean and tidy, well insulated, with a new kitchen and practical layout, and convenient to lots of things. The downsides are that it is an upstairs flat and there is not much of a garden to speak of. But, good-life-geek that I am becoming, I have already asked my landlord for permission to have herbs and vegies in pots on my porch, and will work on having a small vege garden in the grassy area downstairs once he forgets about the fact that I flooded the laundry and kitchen on my second night here.

My current challenge, as I mentioned before, is to figure out how to feed me and the baby on my limited grocery budget. I have made a step towards this (before the separation, in fact) by buying organic vege boxes. I would really like to buy all organic food, but I just don’t think I can afford that. If I buy healthy food like grains, and bake my own bread, I can probably eat fairly healthily on a budget. But the more I learn the more I don’t want to compromise. I want to eat all organic, and morally, shouldn’t I be able to?

However, my government, who pays my bills, doesn’t really care about eating organically. If all I can afford is white bread, they think we’re still being fed. Alas and alack and all that. I will find a way!

Here are some tips I have learned already in this new journey.

  • Johnsonville Salvation Army have a 2 course meal for $2 every Wednesday night at 6pm. Now it appears I’m not that committed to organic, because I’m quite happy to go along and eat their beef casserole with peas and potatoes, with custard and pear for dessert. Because I don’t have to cook. And it’s $2. And I don’t even have to clean up afterwards. If you’re not local to me, chances are your local church or community centre has something similiar. It’s not full of seedy characters; being a church there was quite a family atmosphere, and I was happy to sit through 2 minutes of preaching between courses in order to get all the benefits I mentioned above.
  • Invite friends round for dinner. You can make a meal for 2 or 3 almost as cheaply as for 1 – especially if it’s a stew or such like. Just add a bit more split peas or potatoes or stock. There are lots of cheap meals that can be made fancy. And in return, they’ll invite you round for dinner, so that’s another night you don’t have to cook or pay for food.
  • Buy quality. I have discovered this really delicious peanut butter. It’s about $6 a jar, which is almost 3 times the price of crappy peanut butter. But it has no sugar or emulsifiers or anything in, and it’s so yummy I actually want to eat it. This saves me having cheese or pesto or ham or something else expensive on my cracker. The same with cheese; I buy Mainland tasty cheese (other brands of tasty cheese aren’t really tasty at all) and it’s strong enough that you need to use less, therefore saving money. It’s about $12 a block compared to $9 for colby or cheap tasty, but it lasts me a long time.

Struggling to stay raw

25 Apr

I was excited and motivated about this raw food thing for the first month. Lots of new recipes to try, feeling more energy, having less insulin, and let’s be honest, feeling rather virtuous for eating so healthily.

This isn't me. But I feel a bit like she looks.

But we’ve been mostly raw for over a month now, and the novelty is wearing off. The more lenient I become with the amount of cooked food I allow myself, the more difficult it seems to stay raw.

Last night we had friends over for dinner; pictures of their gourmet ‘raw vegan Christmas feast’ helped inspire me to try raw food, as I saw that it didn’t need to be just salads and green smoothies. So it was nice to be in company of people who ‘get it’.

But it’s still feeling like a lot of effort now. The gourmet raw meals that were exciting me to start with are now paling in comparison to the cooked versions. I keep telling myself that it is good for me, but the little person on the other shoulder says ‘as long as you have a high amount of raw, the odd bit of cooked food is OK’. But the more I think like that, the more cooked food I eat.

I’ve made some nice meals, but with the exception of one nice batch, all the raw crackers and flat breads I’ve tried to make have been failures. I’m weary of snacking on fruit and nuts and carrot sticks.

I guess there’s a point with every new thing where the novelty wears off and you are stuck with the fact that this is reality. I do believe in raw food now, so I’m going to stick with it. But I’m cutting myself some slack; just because I eat some cooked food one day doesn’t mean I have to pack the whole thing in. I just start again the next day.

It’s becoming so clear

21 Apr

Photo by Sipa Press / Rex Features. AERIAL VIEW OF AMAZON RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION

The more I learn about Peak Oil and climate change, the more it becomes clear what a stupid society we live in. As I think about the things we (in the developed world) do that have such massive and often negative effect on the environment and other people, I realise that continuing on in this way of life, even if they were to find another few oil fields, is plain old irresponsible and foolhardy.

I feel it regularly, and have for a long time, although I haven’t always known what to do about it. The lack of community, the isolation of the nuclear family, the work commute waste of time, the ‘retail therapy’ mindset. I mean, really, retail therapy? I’ve never been much of a shopper: although I’m not immune to buying things, going to the mall for fun has never been my ‘thing’!

Yes, they could frack the heck out of North America. Maybe they could figure out how to get every last drop of oil out of the wells. Maybe there are untapped oil resources in the Arctic. Maybe there will be enough electricity / hydrogen / ethanol / vegetable oil to fuel alternative cars. But there are so many things wrong with the options presented by Peak Oil skeptics. How about we just leave the Arctic alone? How about we get back on our horses and bikes instead of clutching desperately to our cars? How about we don’t destroy the environment and cause more pollution by fracturing rocks?

Not to mention the fact that many of our products are produced by sweatshop labour. Someone on the other side of the world has toiled away in misery so that I can ‘have it easy’. And cheap. I don’t want that responsibility on my conscience. Hundreds of animal species are endangered or extinct. Amazonian forests are being cut down at insane rates (something like 6 football fields a minute, if I remember correctly) to make space for grazing beef cattle to make more crappy McDonalds burgers. Honestly, people, what are we doing?!

When you look at the issue from so many perspectives (environmental responsibility, human rights, personal health and happiness, animals rights, etc.) it seems ludicrous. I, for one, am ready to renounce this ‘world owes me a living’ consumer lifestyle, and start living sustainably and ethically. Now to figure out exactly how and when…

Made from scratch

19 Apr

I just finished reading Jenna Woginrich’s lovely book Made from Scratch. She tells the story of moving to a small rental farm in Idaho where she puts in a garden, keeps chickens, rabbits, and bees, goes sledding with her dogs, and makes her own clothes. Not to mention antique shopping, mountain music and baking bread. She interweaves her personal account with easy to follow instructions and information on how to do all these things yourself.

I already know how to sew and knit and bake a loaf of bread, but I like her humourous advice on gardening and keeping chooks. In fact, her chapter on pack dogs has almost got me tempted to have a dog. But not quite. And definitely not here!

I related to the book, as she is a young web designer who yearned for a more ‘simple’ and self sufficient lifestyle, and did it in her own small way. From the beginning. Although the fact that she rents a farm rather than a house with a yard in suburbia, as I do, helps a little. It also probably helps that she has a full time design job and no children, and therefore money, which I don’t. Nonetheless, I DO have a garden, and I have a wonderful little boy who deserves homegrown veges and fresh eggs, and therefore I am going to attempt to create my own little slice of homestead pie, on my piece of rented suburbia. Until I can move to a farm and do it for real.

Check out Jenna’s blog here: Cold Antler Farm I like being able to see some photos, although I haven’t yet had a chance to read any of her entries.

Why I want this anyway

16 Apr

I have never believed that living life in fear of the future is any way to live life. Take Wellington, for example. I know people who won’t live here, and won’t even visit here, for fear of ‘The Big One’. Well, Christchurch had a massive earthquake (or big few) and no one saw it coming, whereas here in Wellington we are stable. [Touch wood.] If I had allowed fear of an earthquake to get in my way, I may not have made an album, done a tour, started a business, learnt web design, and met my husband. It is part of my philosophy that we should seek happiness, not live in fear or duty.

So when my husband pointed out that a lot of my motivation for moving to a farm or village is in anticipation of Peak Oil, I had to stop and think. Was I going against my philosophy: was I arranging my life around fear? I have decided not. Here is why I would do this anyway (oh man, another list…):

  • Finances. I’m weary of feeling like we never earn quite enough to keep up with the lifestyle we have or the lifestyle we want. We don’t have huge debt and we can pay rent and bills and eat healthy food, but we don’t have any spare. In the city culture, this is stressful. I’d like to live somewhere there is less of a strain with money; due to increased self sufficiency and decreased ‘needs’.
  • Community is such an important and beautiful thing. I’d like more of it for me, and I’d like more of it for my son.
  • It’s more natural. I have always felt this, although often denied it to myself and others. But living more rurally, sufficiently and sustainably is a more natural way of life and a healthier one, too.
  • The baby deserves it. He loves the outdoors. Even when he was a newborn, he would immediately stop crying when we took him outside, and would be more relaxed and go to sleep easier. My guaranteed way to get him to sleep was to put him in the mei tai and walk to the end of the street and back. It was a 2 minute walk. He loves crawling around outside, seeing the trees and the clouds. He bawls his eyes out when I shut the front door, and often crawls over to the ranchslider and bangs on the window, or stares at the trees. For his sake, even more than my own, I want to live in a village.
  • Organic, locally grown, seasonal food. This stuff tastes the best and it is the best. It’s so easy to walk into a supermarket and buy whatever I want, and if they don’t have what I want, to feel almost angry. It’s amazing, really, how far we have come from what is natural.
  • It’s environmentally responsible. It’s somewhat excusable to live a consumer lifestyle if you really don’t know any better. But I know better.
  • Stars. You don’t often see the stars in the city, or at least not as many as in the country. There is nothing quite like the incredible stillness at night when you look up into the black sky, covered with dots of light, and you could swear you’re the only person around. And then you smell the woodsmoke, and hear a dog bark, and you know you’re not, and that’s magic too.
  • Seasons. I never really notice the seasons in the city. Sure, it gets colder or warmer. But you don’t really feel them. There isn’t a proper awareness. I miss that. It’s so much easier to be ‘in touch’ in the country.
  • Self sufficiency. I would like to know that if the proverbial hits the fan, I’d be OK. But I also like the idea of being more responsible for myself and my family even if no fan gets hit.

I think this list is likely to get longer. But that will do for now.

Giving myself some credit

15 Apr

I have mentioned previously that I don’t really have any useful survival skills, or trades to contribute to a village or community. But I’ve been thinking I didn’t give myself enough credit. Sure, I’m not a builder or a plumber or an orchardist, and I probably wouldn’t last long in the bush. But I’m not totally useless. So in an effort to make myself feel better with all the depressing things I’ve been reading lately, here’s what I’m good at. (Uh oh, I feel a list coming on.)

  • Making things. I can sew pretty well, and design useful things. I can make books. I can even make paper. One of the advantages to being raised without much money is that you learn to make things out of what you have on hand. I could make a whole bunch of useful things if I needed too. 
  • Interacting. I’m not sure if this is a skill as such, but I’m choosing to look at it as one. I’m good with people. I’m friendly, kind, and confident, and I like to laugh at other people’s jokes and crack a few of my own. I can listen, ask questions, give big hugs, make cups of tea, go for walks, babysit, ponder and discuss ideas, and do other sociably beneficial things. I can be fun and I can be serious; I can take charge, and I can take instructions.
  • I get really passionate about things. I throw myself into them. I learn everything I can. I work long and hard. If I care about something, I really care about it. 
  • I have basic homesteading skills. Although I’m nowhere near expert, if it came to the crunch, I have understanding, if not a lot of experience, with many homesteading skills like gardening, baking bread, etc. 
  • I can teach and care for children. I love kids (although I am rather less interested in other people’s since having my own) and I enjoy caring for them. I really liked swim teaching and was pretty good at it, and I think that could translate into other teaching. I’ve been good with kids since I was a kid. 
  • Cooking. I’m a pretty good cook and I enjoy it. 
  • Writing. I can write, too. Not quite sure how that would be useful, but it doesn’t feel useless

 

Hmm. I’m not terribly impressed with my list, but at least it reminds me that web design and singing aren’t the only things I can do. I plan to add permaculture and pottery to the list, and I might even try my hand at building a house, or at least a yurt. I’ve watched enough Grand Designs, that’ll help, right? 

 

 

 

I swear I’m not a dieter

13 Apr

I have always maintained that diets are a waste of time and food is for enjoying. I’ve never been into fast food and I always have veges with my dinner, but I have felt for a while that I really ought to stop denying the fact that I could have a healthier lifestyle. It’s so easy to just stick with the same old patterns.

I heard about this raw food thing, and thought ‘ no way!’. Why would I give up fettucine carbonara, roast chicken, pastries etc? Sure it’s good to eat more fruit and vegetables, but that’s a bit extreme. My Mum has been increasing her raw diet, but she has a lot of salads and green smoothies, and that just doesn’t appeal to me. Then I saw some pictures a friend posted on Facebook of her raw vegan Christmas feast. The food looked delicious, the recipes sounded easy, and the seed was planted.

The reason I could contemplate the raw food diet is because I have always preferred my vegetables raw, and I love nuts. Even when I was a kid Mum would make two separate lots of veges – raw for me, cooked for her and my brother. But even so, the thought of all the delicious food I’d miss out on was too much. I love cheese, and potatoes, and eggy bread, and sausage rolls (I know, I know). I am so not the type.

Then I read the book ‘Raw Family’ in which the son got diabetes at about the same age as I did. His mother learnt that it wasn’t diabetes that causes eyesight loss and kidney damage, but the insulin used to treat it. I never knew this, and quite frankly, it freaked me out. Living with the spectre of ill health is not an easy thing. They made the huge lifestyle shift to eating 100% raw, and he has never had to take insulin.

With the equally scary spectre of Peak Oil looming, I know that I am particularly vulnerable. If I didn’t have access to insulin, I would die within a week. I finally felt that something needed to be done; I needed to grasp at any possibility to heal or manage my diabetes without synthetic genetically engineered medications which are heavily subsidised and reliant on oil and a stable infrastructure to get them to my fridge.

So I decided to give the ‘raw thing’ a go. When I told a friend a few days ago it felt strange to say a ‘raw food diet’, because to me diets are motivated by weight loss and are a short term thing. This feels like a lifestyle overhaul, and it’s for health reasons. I was worried that I would crave cooked food but to my surprise, I haven’t. I usually find it near impossible to walk past a bakery, but the other day it was as uninteresting to me as a shoe shop. (I’m not really into retail therapy.)

The results were almost instant. Within a couple of days my insulin intake was drastically reduced. Usually I take 30 – 60 units of my short acting novorapid per day, and now I’m taking 10 – 18. I’m still having my usual 32 units per day of long acting.

And as for the energy thing? Last weekend I climbed Mt Kaukau with my husband and baby (he was carrying the baby) and I was fine! Quite a different story to climbing Mt Iron (which is not much of a mountain really) on our honeymoon 2+ years ago and bawling my eyes out halfway up. I want to be more ‘fine’ when I’m doing physical work. I’m sick of not having quite-enough-energy to really live life to the fullest. I’m also sick of letting my diabetes and asthma have so much say in my life.

I feel better already, and it’s been less than two weeks.

Time for a list

12 Apr

I like lists. They help make things simple and clear. So here is a list of things I want to do this year to be more prepared.

  • Take a pottery class. I figure making bowls and things is a practical skill that I would also enjoy doing. Cost is $150 for an 8 week class so I may have to take it in term 3 instead of next term.
  • Study permaculture and put in a garden. I figure if I can learn from a small scale city garden it will be easier to put into practice on a larger scale. Our landlords are so lax with the many maintenance issues we have had with this place that I’m not even going to bother asking if I can put in a garden. From what I have read so far I really like the idea of zoning, and keyhole gardens, and spiral herb patches outside the door and whatnot. I have a poor track record of maintaining gardens so I’d better get practicing.
  • Build up my business. I am really passionate about my business and I believe it will work. But it is not an easy economic environment to be starting a business in, so it is an unknown. I hope to make enough money to save up for things like solar panels, electric bikes and woodstoves, while they are still being produced, and for a piece of land. That requires a huge amount of money, but I have hope that we can at least make a deposit…
  • Foster connections and join local groups, here in Wellington and in Motueka if possible. I want to sign the baby up for Playcentre and Steiner School, and I have already joined Transition Towns online. I also want to join a community currency group, as well as simply network with all the wonderful people out there who have so much knowledge and goodness that I aspire to.
  • Learn more about homesteading and self sufficiency. I want to know how to survive, like my ancestors. It makes me sad that my generation (in general, of course) hasn’t learned the useful skills that our grandparents and great grandparents and great great grandparents had. I want to reclaim that.
  • Get fit and healthy. This is such a broad term and such a common goal that it’s almost cliche. But I have started eating a mostly raw diet, and it is working wonders so far. I will write more about that in another post.

OK, so that’s quite a detailed to-do list, and fairly broad, but it still lays out my immediate goals in front of me.