Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Small and slow solutions

"the bigger they are the harder they fall"
"slow and steady wins the race"

David Holmgren's Design Principle Number 9.

Today I'm thinking about all the small changes we've made in our lives to get to where we are today. A place where we are living better on less, much less.

Behavioural changes, attitidunal changes...

A few years ago we both worked full-time. I was in the corporate world, doing a masters degree, working unpaid overtime, trying for promotions, driving a flash convertible.

My husband was working shift work full time. We had a big house with a pool, all landscaped (none of it edible mind you!). We thought money was the answer - buy the things you need... boy were we wrong.

Now, we live on a quarter of what we earned then. The flash car's gone, 'traded' for a solar hot water service and a 1kw photo voltaic solar energy system.

We eat really, really well. We don't eat out much at all, very, very occasionally we have take away (usually only we've been out running around and haven't been home). The food we eat at home is better than what we can get in a restaurant, because we grew it and it has a story to tell, our hands have touched its seeds, its leaves, we've watered and cared for it - nurtured it and now it is nourishing us.

We spend a lot of time at home, we do this because we enjoy it.

Lots of other small changes are happening. We don't have a clothes dryer anymore, instead we have a solar clothes dryer (we like to call it a clothes line). Our low water, front loading, energy efficient washing machine water runs onto the garden and waters our bananas.

We shop a lot at op shops - especially for the clothes we wear when we are working in the garden and sometimes we find a surprise and score some great going out clothes too.

I take care of our clothes. They are repaired, kept in good order and I dry them in the shade - the sun here is very harsh and will shorten their lives. I'm proud to still be wearing t-shirts that are 20 years old.

All our purchases must be practical, useful, aesthetically pleasing and useful! An example is our wood heater. We needed a more efficient, more environmentally friendly heater than the old oil heater we had (which drew a lot of electricity). We went hunting for the perfect permaculture heater (multifunctional and useful!).

We found the Australian made Nectre brand and bought their baker's oven. It heats our home, it has an oven, it has a cook top and we could have got the water jacket option too (we didn't because we have the solar hot water system which makes more sense in this climate). It's cute and very aesthetically pleasing - just perfect for our little cabin. During winter when it is lit, we do all our cooking on it, including the roasting of our home grown organic coffee beans.

We move our bed into the lounge room in winter to take advantage of the warmth it generates and the ambience. Enough said there!

Back to our diet. I now wander around our abundant garden, basket in hand and harvest what's ripe and ready. Okay, that image is a bit dreamy and you also need to have secatuers on hand, and gloves and perhaps even a bucket to collect grubs for the chooks to eat.

But I do try to make the effort of collecting our food in a beautiful basket... I then plan our meals around what's available. Back this up with a good pantry stock of staples - all bought in bulk with neighbours and stored in cleaned labelled recycled jars - and you will always be able to put together a feast - great when people turn up unexpectedly.

Cars - we sold one and now get by with one car and one motorbike. It's a small car and fuel efficient (actually more efficient than the new hybrids coming out) so it has a place in our lives.

Recycling - we recycle a lot. Green and kitchen waste goes to the chooks, the worms and the compost. Jars are cleaned, scrubbed, labels removed and kept, plastic milk bottles are washed out and put in the recycle bin, same with tins.

We scour rubbish dumps for materials to make things.

We have a small home, and keep energy use to a minimum.

I'm trying to retrofit the inside of our home to permaculture principles. Especially our kitchen, I think the kitchen is the perfect place to practice this. Zoning, multiple function, catching and storing energy... sprouts grow in jars on the kitchen window sill, shelves are full of jars full of goodies, pots n pans are sorted...

A lot of changes have happened here and many more are still to come - it will always be a work in progress. But it's good to take stock and look back at how far you've come. To be grateful with what you have. To enjoy what you've got!


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