Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Disturbing

While we were away and staying at a caravan park something yukky happened.  I am usually a bit of a helicopter parent when it comes to Buddy but I try very hard to allow him the independence that I give to my other children when I think that it is safe to do so.
I have discovered that the trust that I place in him really affects his sense of self.  When I am overly cautious, he misbehaves a lot more.  If I allow him some freedom to move away from me and act grown up, he really rises to the occasion.  He feels good about being trusted and wants to live up to my expectations.  I find this a real juggling act because he is not capable of making complicated or clear decisions in new situations.

Buddy learns by experience (like the rest of us) but it often takes him a little longer to learn.  I find if the others learn something first go, Buddy will learn it by repetition on say the fourth (or fortieth) go. It all depends how complicated the skill or situation is for him.
Anyway, I tell you all this because staying at caravan parks is a very new experience for my children.  We don't often venture far from home and our experiences are fairly consistent each week.  With new surroundings with which I was unfamiliar, I had to make decisions about the freedom of all my children.  For example, do I let them wander over to look at the cage of birds which is very close but not in my line of view?

On this particular night, I was at the camp kitchen washing our dinner dishes when Belle and Buddy wanted to go to the toilet block.  It was directly opposite the camp kitchen.  I was unconcerned and let them head off together.
Next thing I knew, Buddy came flying out of the toilets and ran up to me looking very scared.  He was quickly followed by Belle who told me that, while she was in one of the toilet cubicles, a lady had yelled very loudly at Buddy.  Apparently he bobbed down and looked under a shower door.  I quickly explained to Buddy how inappropriate this behaviour was and I marched him back into the toilet block to apologise.  He was sooo scared but I explained that he had to!  He was to look her in the eye and say sorry in a voice loud and clear enough for her to understand.  I felt for the woman because no one expects to have their privacy violated while showering naked.

The second she came out of the shower stall Buddy apologised.  She had not yet looked at him.  I also apologised and explained to her that we don't go to caravan parks and he would just have been curious as to what was happening in the little stall.  Buddy said sorry again in an audible voice while looking directly at the young woman just as I had advised.  She then told me how distressing it was to have Buddy look under the stall when she was completely naked.
Again, I apologised and explained that he would not have realised that someone would be naked in there.  Again, Buddy very clearly said sorry.  She then asked me was he in the toilets unaccompanied.  I'm afraid I didn't handle this well.  I don't know why my mood changed so instantly from contrite to furious.  Maybe because I felt guilty that I hadn't accompanied him.  Maybe because I hate the idea that he won't easily become independent.  Maybe because my young child (with an intellectual disability to boot) was so uncomfortable about facing this lady, but was doing it with courage and dignity, and she refused to even acknowledge him.  Maybe because she was acting as though his behaviour was unforgivable which led me to believe she thought Buddy's motives were dark.

I coldly said, "NO!  He was in here with his older sister!  She was in the toilet.  Come on Buddy!  Let's go.  She's obviously not interested in your apology."  Then I stormed out with Buddy in tow.  I'm not proud of how I handled the situation.  I should have kept my emotions out of it.
His sisters were terribly upset about the chain of events and were fussing over him.  I asked them to stop making a big deal out of it, explaining that his behaviour was very wrong and that he needed to be aware of that.  However, I also told them that the lady had made too big a deal about it and was very thoughtless in her response.

I went to bed feeling very disturbed.  My boy is eight.  Did this woman really think there was some deviant sexual reason for him looking under the shower stall?  He intellect is low and I liken the incident to a three year old peeking under out of curiosity.

I guess I was also very disturbed because I wonder if this is a sign of things to come.  Will Buddy be judged for his differences in an unfair way as he ages?  Will people distrust him through a lack of understanding of Down syndrome?  Or am I now making the same mistake as the young lady and making a mountain out of a mole hill?
This is my little boy who is kind and compassionate, the boy who, when given a gift, asks if there is a gift for his sisters as well, before he opens his; the boy who insists on getting changed in the changing rooms for swimming lessons (because it's the grown up thing to do) and then comes out starkers because he just doesn't understand what this privacy thing is about; the boy who wants to work in the house and yard and be respected; my little boy who wishes he was just like everyone else.

Oh Buddy, how I wish I could make sure life goes well for you!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Irony

Last week, I packed the kids into the car, kissed Hubby goodbye and headed off to join the Pacific Climate Warriors in their battle against the coal ships.  The boot was full to the brim with our tent, little stove, clothes etc.  This particular protest meant a lot to me.  For a start, our damaging use of fossil fuels desperately needs to change and NOW but more than that, we were heading off to protest with the very people who are already impacted by rising sea level.  I spent my formative years growing up in Vanuatu and I am angry that so many people choose to ignore the plight of those in the Pacific.  The bitter irony is that the islanders' lifestyles didn't cause the issue;  nor did they benefit from the use of fossil fuels, yet they are now bearing the brunt of our actions.
Here in Australia, many would like to pretend that the effects of climate change are something in the far off future, something that can be ignored for a long time yet.  Clearly, this is not the case.  If Aussies aren't capable of looking beyond their own backyards and noticing those in immediate peril, then surely they would be aware of what is happening right under their noses!

We had planned on an easy trip up to Newcastle, using the time away as an opportunity to have a bit of a holiday.  We set up our little tent at Goulburn, planning to continue on the next day.  We were aware that rain was predicted for Newcastle but figured we could tough it out or spend a night in a cabin for shelter.  
What we didn't count on was the ferocity of the weather.  Climate change, with all its power and might, saw us sheltering in a cabin at Goulburn on the second night while thunder shook the walls.  The next day we braved the trip to Newcastle knowing another storm was on the way.  We found more cabin accommodation but woke to see the State Emergency Service helping a couple in a van across the way from our cabin.  Then we heard reports of mayhem in Sydney.  Flooded train stations, snow in the Blue Mountains, over two thousand calls to the State Emergency Service for help with fallen trees etc., one hundred and seventy millimetres of rain in some areas.....  The predictions were that the wild weather was heading to Newcastle.
 Our plan to have a cheap journey to join in with the flotilla was falling apart.  The tent was not an option.  The wind was blowing us away.  So for all my passion and commitment to fighting climate change, with the children's safety to think about, we gave up and drove home. 
 I was so disappointed to have used so much time and energy to get to Newcastle and turn around without even meeting the Climate Warriors, but more so to not even get to add our voice to the protest of the coal leaving the harbour.  It felt scary though, to be so far from home with not much money, knowing no one locally and being aware that I was responsible for keeping my children safe.

There was a sense of relief to be heading back down the highway for home.  I felt worn out from driving and from trying to make decisions on the hop.  I had also struggled with providing for ourselves in a sustainable fashion while we were on the road.  We ate organic tinned baked beans one night, tinned soup with bread another.  We had to buy boxes of milk and breakfast cereal.  The caravan parks didn't have recycling facilities.  I thought about bringing our rubbish home but there wasn't an inch of spare space in the car.  The children were already drowning in a sea of pillows, blankets and tourist maps so I guiltily placed our rubbish in the bin.

As we drove home, I reflected on the irony of not being able to participate in the protest for action against climate change DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE!!!  The very areas that snow fell had been battling bushfires at the same time last year.  The previous year to that, snow!
I also reflected on the fact that we have worked very hard to minimise our personal impact on climate change and travelling away from home threw me back into a world of convenience.  I looked forward to arriving back home to our bulk foods in our own containers, our veggies from the garden, our eggs from the chooks and milk from the goats.  Year by year, we have reduced our packaging and our waste; we have reduced our personal demand on energy used to package and transport our food to our kitchen.  
So while I couldn't take part in a public and dramatic demonstration to shake the people into awareness (and they sure need to wake up to themselves) I can fight climate change here at home with my family.  I can fight in a way that is very effective yet gentle and positive.  I can fight by fertilising my veggie garden, composting our food scraps, tending our animals and poultry, by teaching my children practical life skills, by sharing our goats milk, by being part of a larger community of environmentally aware people.  Tonight we will dine on spatchcocked chicken grown here on our property, potatoes from the farmers market, spinach from Mum's and pavlova made with some of our eggwhites.  These are left over from the yolks I used to make custard, which will become ice cream for the children later today.  It's certainly not an uncomfortable way to fight climate change!  It just requires commitment to make personal changes and a bit more thought and effort into providing for our needs.
So one way or another, please join with the Climate Warriors, please join with me....  Let's fight this fight together whether it be by joining protests, signing petitions, letting your politician know how you feel or simply by growing some veggies!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Tired but productive

It's been a great week around here with lots of busy spring activity taking place.  With the school term starting, we've resumed our weekly activities.  I had missed our Social Swimming program where I get to jump in the pool with the kids and have an hour of songs and fun.

Pumpkin's bathers disintegrated through sheer overuse last term so rather than buy a new pair, I made her a swimming costume.  I can't call them bathers really because they are not very conventional but I had left over fabric from making the bags.   Using a sheet, a pyjama pants pattern and a modified sundress pattern, I came up with an outfit.  Pumpkin LOVES wearing them.
It's been a week of finding a hard-to-find rooster and a pet silky.
 
Uh huh!  You're seeing it right.  It's on her bed!!

A week of expecting six Orpington chicks and getting instead...  only one little chicken which we suspect is a moggy.

This week Argoo went on heat.  (Is that correct goat terminology?)  So we had a rushed visit from a nearby Saanen buck!  It wasn't successful because, while they both showed some interest and pranced around a bit, they didn't do the important bit.  Oh well, I'll try again next month.

The garden has been needing my attention but my efforts are paying off!  We eating lots of beautiful, fresh lettuce at the moment and I've even been organised enough to plant more lettuce to follow!

 
We harvested broad beans this week.  Have you discovered yet how much fun podding is for children?!
 
 



Most of our enthusiasm this week though, has gone into preparing for a trip away.  We're travelling to New South Wales next week to take part in the Flotilla with the Pacific Climate Warriors.   I like involving my children in actions to address climate change because I want them to realise that they are not powerless.  I want them to believe they can play an important part in creating the world they want to live in.
My big lesson for the week has been the realisation of the importance of sleep in our busy lifestyle!  I have been struggling to sleep for some unknown reason and it's driving me mad!  I go to bed, sort of sleep but not quite.  I seem to spend the whole night in a half asleep, half awake state and it has impacted on me.  I'm dragging my feet (and feeling grumpy) during the day.  Our lives are so physical with leading goats up and down hills, carting water etc.  I've realised that after a good, refreshing sleep, I feel able to take on the world but without it I struggle to get through each day.

Now that I've made this clear connection between sleep and my ability to function well, what do I do with this awareness?  Do you ever suffer from insomnia and have you found a solution for it?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Slow Living Monthly Nine - September 2014

Welcome to the Slow Living link-up for a re-cap of our first spring month here in Australia!  I'm looking forward to reading your accounts and to hearing the reports of contrasting seasons from elsewhere in the world.  We've been enjoying some beautiful sunny days and the garden is springing into life after its slow and gentle winter growth.

Please link-up with us and tell us what September held for you under the nine categories.  Thank you Christine (Slow Living Essentials) for dreaming up this wonderful way to connect and get inspiration from others!

Nourish

Eggs are back on the menu.  We've been enjoying quiches again and having boiled eggs as part of casual meals of bits and pieces.  The girls and I love egg sandwiches too. I love them with lettuce for a bit of fresh crunch!
We also had a chicken meal in September that featured one of our roosters.  Not the gentle giant in the above photo.  We are purposely growing chooks for this very reason.  My rationale being that I can give them a great life, respectful death and lessen our environmental impact.  I must say though, I really procrastinate when it comes to eating them.  This particular rooster pushed me along by attacking me and doing a bit of damage with his spurs.  I really don't enjoy the meals when one of our chooks are in the pot but I'm just going to keep at it.  It makes no sense to be able to enjoy a chook that I didn't know personally but not my own.  A life is a life.  I figure if I don't want to become a vegetarian, I have to keep trying until I can view the meals as 'normal'.
 Prepare

It's lemon season and although I don't have them in profusion, plenty of my friends do.  I've been given heaps of lemons to make cordial with.  This year I'd like to get a good stock of summer drinks going before the weather heats up.  It's difficult to get ahead though because the kids love the cordial.
 Reduce

I've started working on Christmas gifts already.  I would love to have a Christmas without purchased gifts but making presents is very time consuming.  With a bit of luck, if I start now, I will have my greenest Christmas yet.  I know if I get a head start on the presents, I will look forward to the day instead of stressing about it like I so often do!

Green

Well!  I read a great post by Melissa at Frugal and Thriving about making your own hot oil treatment for dry hair.  It has really worked on my dry, grey hair but.....  I used just olive oil and geranium essential oil (I'm allergic to lavender).  I wash my hair with soap so I gave it three washes to rinse out the oil and left it to dry.  Lucky I wasn't going anywhere that day because it didn't all come out.  It was sooo oily!  The next day I washed it a couple more times and now it's lovely and soft.  If you give it a try, it might be best not to do it on the day of a special occasion.

Grow

I just couldn't stay out of the garden this month!  It's become like an obsession.  I have added compost to beds, helped the children prepare their own veggie beds at their request, sewn seeds, planted seedlings, fertilised.....  I have lettuce, silver beet, rhubarb, spring onions, cauliflower, herbs and we harvested a couple of cabbages.  I'm giving my spring seedlings daily attention as we head into the next season of plants.  Love, love, love being in the garden on these sunny, spring days!
 Create

Well I can't show you what I'm doing for Christmas because the family would see their pressies!  I was also very busy making shopping bags and vegetable bags for the event in the next category.  Belle helped me sew them and in the process she learnt to use the sewing machine.  She has since made shoulder bags for herself and her little sister, Pumpkin.  I'm quite proud of her.  I certainly didn't know how to sew at eleven years old.
 Enhance

On the weekend of the climate marches, our environment group went to a local supermarket and gave away shopping bags that we had sewn.  We took our machines and sewed more bags on the spot.  All the bags were made from recycled material.  We figured that it was a great way to start conversations and thought around climate change and the personal actions that can be taken.  The event was well received and hopefully we've encouraged a few of the people we spoke with to shop with reusable bags rather than plastic.
Discover

After breaking my computer, I had a new hard drive installed.  I am now using Windows 8 and I hate it.  I feel like I'm learning to use the computer all over again.  It is soooo different that I'm even having trouble just locating explorer and photos.  Very frustrating when writing posts though I suppose like anything, it will become easy over time.

Enjoy

Did I tell you that I'm enjoying gardening?  Hee hee!
Link up below to share your September with us and don't forget to visit all the inspirational slow living bloggers!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Synergy

I love synergy.  It originally became important to me on a personal level when I started dabbling in essential oils.  It was amazing to see an oil that worked well on it's own become even more effective in combination with other complimentary oils.

These days I see synergy all around me.  I think the longer you live somewhere creating a garden or permaculture systems, the more obvious it becomes.  Everything starts to work together after a few years because plants become established, routines are in place and life begins to flow.

Synergy is like magic and meant-to-be!

For example, today is warm and windy.  The first very warm day this spring.  I needed to rake out the milking shed because the weather is becoming snakey.  I don't want any nasty surprises while we're milking.  I was left with lots of hay to use.  Today's weather is also perfect for cleaning the chook shed.  Voila!  I have the dry hay to put to use! 
I cleaned the perches, walls, cleaned out the soiled hay and sprinkled sulphur powder on the perches in case of mites.  In went the hay with some fragrant herbs to discourage insects.  I used lavender and rosemary.  And what do you know, the lavender needed to be cut back from the chook gate because it was starting to impede the gate from opening.  I had also been meaning to prune the rosemary for quite some time.  It all worked together nicely with each job tying in with the other.
I put fresh straw in their little yard and scattered more herbs over the top.  I dusted the chooks with sulphur to treat in case they have mites, sprayed their legs with olive oil to smother any scaly leg mites and put a splash of homemade cider vinegar in their water.  The chooks made the most beautiful, contented cooing sounds when they came back to their pen.

The current issue of Organic Gardener (October) has a great article on cleaning chook pens which is where I got the idea for the herbs.  I love my Organic Gardener magazine so I'd encourage you to buy it.

I see synergy when the weeds all appear early in spring, just as I'm needing green stuff for the compost I'm making.
I see it when I care for the garden and then the wasted leaves I've grown return to the garden to create more fertility so I can garden more.
I see it in the fact that I care for my chooks, they supply me with eggs, they poop heaps, the poop creates fertility in the soil which grows greens that I can feed to my chooks.
I see synergy in the fact that I spend so much time caring for my garden and the garden rewards me by soothing my soul.
I've only noticed synergy in nature.  Does it happen elsewhere?

Do you see magic at your place too?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Latches

We have plenty of doors and gates around here that all need closing sometimes.

We have a variety of latches.

We have recycled latches...

 Metal latches...
 
Hay bale twine latches...
 Latches that operate by heavy weight...
 Trampoline spring latches...
 Rope latches...
 and latches made from pieces of wood.
We also have hinges but that's another story!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Change

In permaculture it is often said that within a problem is the solution.  David Holmgren's classic example is, "You don't have a snail problem, you have a duck deficit.".

Today I've been thinking about the fact that the answer to climate change is in the term itself.  Change.  We need change.  We need a change in government attitudes and policies.  We need change to the consumerist attitudes and indulgent lifestyles.  We need change to the way we produce and source our food.  We need major change and we need it NOW!  There is not one of us that could not make some type of change to reduce our impact on the situation.
Luckily lots and lots of people are aware of this.  Yesterday, 21st of September, saw marches all over the world.  There were huge amounts of people turning up to local marches and calling for climate action.  Yay!

Our environment group didn't hold a march.  We decided to do something a bit different.  We decided that rather than march, we would encourage people to address climate change at a personal level. We sat outside a local supermarket for four hours and sewed shopping bags.  They were made from recycled material and we gave them away for free.  We hoped to encourage people to stop using plastic bags which are so harmful to our environment.  With the bags, we gave a flier listing various easy ways people could address their personal impact on climate change.
It was a fun morning and we spoke to many people.  With a bit of luck we will have made a difference in some way.  We certainly didn't get our message across to everyone!  One older woman was delighted with her new bag and also took one to give her friend.  Then she popped into the supermarket and emerged with.... you guessed it!  A plastic bag!!  Argghh!  However, if only five of all the people we spoke to change from plastic to reusable, I would be delighted.  It would be change.
Sometimes I despair that people are hiding their heads in the sand.  I think I understand.  I believe their attitude is born from fear.  Well they should be scared; very scared.  But head burying doesn't seem very wise to me.

Other times I despair that people are so indulgent that, although they acknowledge a climate emergency, they don't want to adjust their lifestyles.  These people are looking for answers through technology.  While I totally support renewable energy and love some of the clever advances that are being made with green products, we live in a finite world.  There just aren't enough resources to go around.  Life needs to be simpler.  If only people could embrace the beauty in life that has nothing to do with beautiful homes, gorgeous clothing, owning the latest gadgets or just shopping in general.  Life is so much more.  It is family, friendship, appreciation for warm and comfortable homes, belonging in a useful and meaningful way to community, and animals, and tummies full of good wholesome food, vegetable gardens, clean water to drink and do-it-yourself and..... I could go on all day!
Change.  It isn't hard.  You need to make a conscious decision that you want to vary the way you do something and stick to it.  That's all there is to it!

Here are the small changes we suggested in our leaflet -

·         Shop with reusable bags (including veggie bags)

·         Buy local

·         Buy organic

·         Drive less (complete several tasks on one trip)

·         Use public transport

·         Grow vegetables

·         Cook meals from scratch (cheaper too!  Woo Hoo!)

·         Keep chooks – they give you eggs and when you feed them scraps you’ll reduce your rubbish

·         Buy second hand where possible

·         Repair items rather than throw them out

·         Use less electricity – turn off lights and electrical appliances when not in use

·         Cook in bulk and freeze (uses one lot of energy for more than one meal)

·         Buy only things you really need, find other ways to have fun than shopping

In summary, I'm delighted to see so many people out there are taking this as seriously as I am and are demanding change.  Together we can make a difference.
So the scenario is ours.  Personal change or climate change.  You choose.

Please add to the ideas in the comments.  I'm sure there are many ideas I haven't mentioned and the more we have, the better.