Wait - let's start with a drum roll...
I'm launching "Love Living Green". It is a community of people who do (or aspire to do) just that: Loving Living Green.
For me, this is waaay more than a hobby or 'pet project'. It is my absolute passion to help people LOVE living green - because I believe this is the ONLY way we can bring about change at the scale that we need so that our children can still have a future. Yes, there is the option of waiting for some crisis to manifest (even more than they already do) which will FORCE people to rethink their lifestyle. But it's not the path I prefer. I'm not a fan of drama.
AND, I think there is another way. And it is really simple - it's about embracing life, reconnecting with what we already know, meeting our deepest desires THROUGH living a lifestyle that is more 'green and sustainable'. Because living 'green' is not hard, it's a way to fulfillment.
Wait, what? - Green living is a way to fulfillment???
Well, let me tell you a bit about my story and what I have discovered.
In 2005, when my first child was born, my world changed (I'm sure many of you can relate). But not only because of the new experience of motherhood. It was my view of the world that changed as well.
I had always been passionate about the environment, and most of my career to that date had been focused on that. I cared for the animals, the ecosystems, our planet. But I remember a moment, a few days after my son was born, when I looked into his eyes and my perspective changed completely. Suddenly, it was no longer about looking after the planet 'out there'. Suddenly it was about taking care of something that was closer to my heart than anything I had ever encountered before. It was all good and well doing something for the earth - or for myself - but it was not as powerful as being called to do something for this little being in front of me. This was no longer about me - it was very tangibly about the future of my boy.
Shortly after that, when our TV blew up, I became obsessed with finding out EXACTLY what was going on for the world. I consumed documentaries online by the dozens (I had a lot of time to watch stuff while sitting on the chair with my sleeping baby on my chest) and I got more and more anxious, the more I learned.
I started making changes to our lifestyles, driven both by anxiety and the overwhelming love for my baby. I eliminated toxins from our home, ripped up the back lawn and started growing food. Our life became local and organic, clean and - with that - increasingly low impact. We even stopped working because we felt our work was contributing more to the problem than it was contributing to the solution.
For the next 10 years I occupied myself with learning about low impact living, what to look for and what to avoid. I learned about gardening, clean food and natural remedies. 3 years after Finlay was born, we moved to the Rabbithole and I learned even more. Homesteading was on the curriculum: raising animals, preserving, making and fixing things. Installing water systems and figuring out what it would take to get off grid.
Because we were living on a budget from having given up work, we eliminated everything that didn't seem necessary. We managed to cut our bills by more than half. I shopped only second hand, we fixed stuff and made new things out of old things. In fact, I gave up 'shopping' as a past time altogether. Our car cost $700. Even 'eating out' came (mostly) off the menu and Christmas presents were almost entirely homemade or recycled.
Sometimes there was a lot of trial and error, but in the end, we worked it out and we managed to stretch our savings a much longer way than we thought.
That sounds like a struggle you think?
Here's the thing. It was anything but.
Not working more than we had to, we had lots of family time with our young children. They didn't have to go to daycare before they were ready.
We ate healthier than ever before. We spent time in nature.
We FELT better than ever before, both from being active outside and having cut our exposure to much of the toxic crap that was in our lives before: as baking soda replaced both toxic cleaning products and toxic shampoos, our senses came to their senses and our bodies healed.
We invited friends for dinners from the garden instead of eating out.
We swam in the river and went for walks instead of going on expensive holidays and it was more than enough because we didn't need to make up for being stressed, overworked and unhappy the rest of the time. We surfed on second hand boogie boards.
In fact, we found everything second hand. Our house was full of great toys and books and everything we could possibly ask for - all from being on the receiving end of a throw-away society. We could not NOT have an indoor soccer table, because we couldn't bear the thought of seeing it go into the landfill when someone was throwing it out. (I think it's still in the garage, actually).
The same reason we have a working dentist chair in our lounge for the kids to play on - but that is another story.
We had lots of fun meeting WWOOFers and AirBnB guests from all parts of the world, sharing our home. We supported our community and received support in return. We made lots of friends and hung out with the coolest people.
We were clean, green - and happy.
(Well, not entirely happy yet, because there was more to learn. But happy as far as the point of this story goes)
My quest for living a low-impact lifestyle to protect the planet made me healthy, connected and happy.
And that's why I Love Living Green - and want to share what I have learned with all of you.
Here's the recipe for the beetroot chocolate cake we had at the garden tour - by popular request:
300g scrubbed beetroot
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup rice bran oil
2 free range eggs
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup Cocoa
! cup LSA
1. Grate the beetroot.
2. Put beetroot, vanilla, oil, eggs and sugar into the blender and blend until smooth.
3. Sift in flour, baking powder and cocoa.
4. Add LSA
5. Combine everything in a big bowl until just mixed. Don't over-mix.
6. Pour into large greased cake tin.
7. Bake at 180deg C for 35-40 minutes, until firm to the touch
On some intuitive level, I have always known that we need rhythms. Rudolf Steiner talks about that particularly with regard to young children, but I think it actually never changes. We need a certain level of structure (certainty) to be able to develop our freedom (variety).
Despite knowing this, as an Aquarian, I struggle with routines. I guess I get bored easily.
Over the last couple of months - with some of the form removed, i.e. no longer being tied to fixed working hours (but even before that) - I have made a renewed effort to pay more attention to rhythms. And guess what - I feel a lot saner already.
Here are some ideas:
1. Celebrate the seasons.
The garden is the obvious place to observe the seasons. Seasons give us a great rhythmic pattern and as a gardener you will all be aware of this. As we advance through the year, we go through a progression of tasks that may vary in detail but repeat annually. Working with the plants and soil makes us more aware of the seasons - and vice versa, the progression of months make us aware of the tasks that await us in the garden (or, in my case, the ones we have fallen behind on).
Another great way to acknowledge the seasons to celebrate. A lot of our holiday traditions go back to seasonal events and I believe - among the commercial hustle and bustle - it's good to remember these. For those of us here in the Southern Hemisphere, this may mean turning things onto it's head.
We have just passed 'Halloween' which is actually the seasonal festival of Samhain - the dying down of life at the end of the summer and the veils between the worlds lifting for spirits to pass through. Hence the scary costumes. Here in the Southern Hemisphere - at the beginning of summer, when everything is brimming with life - this doesn't make much sense. What is more true for us is the opposing festival of Beltane, the awakening and celebration of life, the fire of the sun etc. Whether you choose to participate in the Halloween craze or not - it's good to know that and maybe it'll put a slightly different flavor to your activities.
2. Welcome the moon into your life
Nature loves fractals, so from the macrocosm of the year, we can look into the course of each month, week or day.
So here's a question for you: when is the next full moon? Is it part of your awareness?
For the gardener, the moon phases provide a wonderful rhythm - not to do with witchcraft at all (unless you want it to), but with the moons gravitational field and it's effect on moisture levels in the soil. The waxing moon is the time for planting, the waning moon the time for weeding (roughly) - and boom: you have a great rhythm and structure for what to focus on at any given time. Instant sanity. If you've never gardened by the moon phases, I highly recommend you give it a try - not only for the beneficial effect is has on the plants, but mostly, for the beneficial effect it has on YOU.
If you're unsure, there are great moon phase calendars on the web and Koanga Institute have a great garden calendar adapted to the moon phases.
But even is you're not so focused on gardening, the moon will give all sorts of clues: often having an effect on the quality of our sleep, on our appetite (ever noticed that?!) and - for the ladies - often syncing in some way with our menstrual cycles.
3. Design your perfect week
Drilling down into detail even more, I think our mind benefits from weekly rhythms as well - for me this is true in the sense that it feels good to have a balance of activities throughout the week. Focusing on different things on different days of the week (Saturday: cleaning day, etc) helps give me enough variety to not get bored, but enough structure to not get stressed over having to re-invent myself all the time. Which doesn't mean that I don't divert from it all on a regular basis. Life happens, you know. But a general structure is helpful - and, to be honest, would probably be even more helpful if I stuck to it more.
I even sat down and drew myself a 'my perfect week' calendar - scheduling in all the different things I want to (or need to) take care of on a regular basis. You can use google calendar for this - just create a new calendar and map away. When doing this exercise, make sure you schedule your 'me' time in first - and all the self-care activities you want to happen. And don't forget the kids and family time. Once you have done that, use the time that is left for work etc - and you'll probably find you're heaps more efficient if you limit the time you make available for stuff.
(By the way, if you're struggling with social media distractions - check out this blog post over at FLC!)
Speaking of weekly schedules, when the kids were younger, I also used to have a weekly meals calendar and, while I don't feel I need it so much anymore, I still recommend it frequently for people who are just starting out on their 'healthy food' journey, in particular weaning themselves from ending up with take-aways. Again, I'm not one to plan to a high level of detail, but it was good for me to have a plan along the lines of:
Monday - Pasta
Tuesday - Stir fry
Wednesday - Soup
Thursday - Casserole
Friday - Pizza
Saturday - Meat
Sunday - leftovers
- or, whatever works for you.
To prepare all this, I'd use whatever I had (I rarely use recipe books) - usually seasonal, fresh produce from the garden and my kitchen staples. For me, just having this little map alleviated the dreaded 'What am I going to do for dinner?' question.
4. Pick your favorite daily routines
Daily routines... that's an interesting one. Again, I'm Aquarius, so when I hear daily routine, I run. And even with the best intention setting, I have never really managed to stick to doing anything consistently each day for any length of time.
However, with increasing age and wisdom (and, more so: technology) I would say I have recently passed my bachelor's degree in daily routine: I'm on day 93 of my 30 day yoga challenge (the amazing Candace is my new virtual friend who visits every day around 9pm) and I'm even not doing to badly on my 30 day fitness challenge (on day 87, but I admit on missing a few here and there on that one). Oh - and my daily planning journal gets attention about 5 out of 7 days. For me, that's a revolution.
What's helped me was using my inner perfectionist to keep me honest. I downloaded 'Habithub' onto my phone, which not only reminds me every day of my chosen tasks - but also relentlessly demonstrates my weekly and monthly overview through a series of either green (done), blue (skipped) or red (failed) dots. Turns out, my inner perfectionist can't accept the blue or (gasp!) red dots messing up that beautiful row of green. Better do it. Funny how we work sometimes.
Of course your own routines may differ completely - choose the ones that work for you, and train yourself to follow them - even just a few minutes each day. Daily gratitude is another great one.
5. Breathe :-)
Last not least, working our way down through the world of rhythms, bringing our attention back to the rhythm of our breath can work true magic in times of stress and busyness. Just spending a few minutes observing the natural flow of our breath can bring us back into the present moment. One of my favourite things to do in the garden, actually.
With all that in mind, I have decided to give the celebration of rhythms a bit more space here at the Rabbithole. This month, I'm launching a full moon women's only circle - combined this month with celebrating Beltane (a campfire by the river seems in order) - and I will be making a point of marking the festivals at least via a facebook post and potentially with seasonal events - if you're local and keen for that, please let me know or come along.
When you're talking to growers, it seems it's never quite right - either they complain about too much rain, or not enough...
But, seriously - come on now! This winter has been somewhat extreme in it's rainfall here and it wasn't fun. I can't help but wonder whether this is the new normal - more atmospheric carbon = more heat = more moisture = more rain?
Seeing the sun the last few days was glorious though and seeing my seedlings all spring up even more so.
Seed sowing is going to continue this month - even though it means increased fuss over the little plant babies - having to move them from inside to outside, from sun to shade, sometimes several times a day. I often think growing seedlings is like having a baby - being continuously aware of their needs.
Having said that, we don't have a great set up here for raising seedlings - how easy it would all be with a glass house and a sprinkler system!
Bed preparation continues as well, trying to outrun the winter weeds which are now putting on a real growth spurt - as well as all the new ones coming up with increased soil temperatures. We're also spreading compost, aerating the beds (!!!) and mulching everything that is not going to be seedbed in the next little while.
As we clear the beds, some of our winter crops, which are past their prime, are coming out as well - although I like to leave as many of the brassicas to flower for the bees to feed on as possible. They are just buzzing at the moment!
Everything that comes out of the garden beds goes straight onto a compost heap - mixed with the last of the autumn leaves I had stored away (and some extra ones that I can sweep up from the forest floor here). Add the chicken straw and - boom! Ready to go.
We've had some new arrivals with three new hens and are hoping for some egg production. They are Araucana crosses, so look! - green eggs!
So this is going to be one of these completely self-serving blog posts which I write to make only my own life easier... Thing is, a perceived 20 times a day (realistically, maybe once every 10 days) I get asked "So why did you call this place the Rabbithole??" Often, this is accompanied by a somewhat curious expression on peoples face - but sometimes there's a hint of a dubious touch to it.
Admittedly, if you're going to be growing vegetables, the last thing you want is rabbits, right?
But first for the story: if you have ever wandered the yards of the beautiful Rabbithole, you'll have noticed that our garden situation is a little peculiar. (Ok, less so since last summer, but still...). Against all permaculture principles (Zone 1, vege garden, most often visited, closest to the house) our main garden and orchard are a level below the house, accessible only via a somewhat treacherous bush track (which I love).
Which essentially means, when you arrive, you dive down through the shady dark forest until you reach the sunny meadow below. It's just like falling down a Rabbithole - and ending up in vege wonderland. Or something like that.
(Last summer we surrendered to permaculture wisdom and added a kitchen garden next to the house as well - but wonderland garden is still going strong and now - with more mature fruit trees flowering - more wonderland-ish than ever)
That's one version of the story.
The other version of the story is to do with Morpheus.
Because the simple yet complex life at the Rabbithole is very much intentionally a counter-reaction to popular culture. Here, we believe that salvation does not lie in purchasing the next shiny object. We acknowledge that our current lifestyles are unsustainable, and have to change. We live with this consciousness every day - even on the days when we are not making the best sustainable choices. It's a learning process. And one of discovery. We see through the wool that popular culture pulls over your eyes - we like to name things for what they are. In essence, our regular ways are killing the planet faster than we can comprehend, climate change is already here and the economic growth paradigm is - finally - entering hospice. To see these things for what they really are takes a bit of learning - and a fair bit of courage. So, what would you like? The red pill or the blue pill - and how deep do you want to go?
For those of you who find this a little bit heavy - don't worry too much. Just
Loving this time of year! The blossoms have opened up on the plum tree, which is the first sign of spring. The last month was all about dodging the rain and getting ready for spring - in an alternating fashion.
The bright side of 'dodging the rain' involved our lovely WWOOFer Stephanie creating some amazing artwork with the kids in the school holidays, and sewing some amazing floor cushion covers (I LOVE floor cushions!!) and all of us in a spontaneous kerfuffle redecorating the lounge...
And then - when it stopped raining - we did get out into the garden on a big weeding mission (the winter weeds we've been eating most of the winter - lambs lettuce, nasturtium and parsley - were allowed to stay just a bit longer :), applying compost and a thin layer of mulch.
Most of our compost is home-made, but for a top-up, we called in the awesome guys at CompostingNZ to supply us with a certified organic bulk order. Due to our very rabbithole-like lay of the land 'round here, we're always having to split our precious compostables between the upper and the lower garden - with most of it going down the hill into the chicken compost. Upstairs, with drive-on access, we can take advantage of some external capacity. Advantageously, this is also guaranteed weed-free - which has been my secret weapon to carrot-success last year. There you go. I cheat.
This last weekend, my seed order went in and before long, an early under-cover sowing of zucchini, peas, beans and greens is going to get under way. Below is my order for this year. Between $200 for a compost top-up (which is a bit of a luxurious bonus), $100 for seeds (plus a variety of self-saved ones) I would expect this to take us through to about this time next year, vege-wise. Not too bad for a year's supply of food.
Organic Bean Blue Lake Dwarf
Organic Bean Golden Wax Dwarf
Organic Bean Gold Marie Vining
Organic Cucumber Lemon
Organic Cucumber Tendergreen
Organic Lettuce Merveille des Quatre Saisons
Organic Lettuce Parris Island Cos
Organic Pumpkin Autumn Harvest
Organic Radish Easter Egg
Organic Squash Honeynut
Organic Zucchini Black Beauty
Organic Zucchini Cocozelle
Bean Lazy Housewife Runner
Bean Top Crop Dwarf
Komatsuna Mustard Spinach
Cucumber Homemade Pickles
Gourds Large Bottle
Beetroot Chioggia Red/White
Carrot Pusa Asita
Tomato Black from Tula
Tomato Matt's Wild Cherry
Corn Florida Supersweet F1
Corn Florida Supersweet F1,
Tomatillo Grande Verde
Organic Okra Clemson Spineless
Basil Genovese Giant
Today definitely felt like summer is on it's way... I've been busy busy busy planting and preparing the beds for more planting!! I even got an optimistic tray full of tomatoes started in the seedling house (plus cheating and buying a few seedlings for the glasshouse). The garden is definitely waking up and the fresh growth manages to outrun the snails (mostly ;). The orchard is also looking quite different - the tree Lucerne got a major slash to give room and light to the fruit trees - it's looking quite different down there. We're down to almost nothing as far as grass is concerned - the sheep cleared everything up for spring growth.
So in this waxing moon phase I planted out seedlings of: brokkoli, cauliflower, kale, peas, celery, celeriac, mizuna, lettuces. Started more peas, dwarf beans, even courgette and tomato (under cover) and out on the heat pad the peppers and eggplant are growing (although they took a major hiding by me letting them dry out the other week...)
And so much more which I can't even remember...
Anyway - a few photos...
Our recent WWOOFers created this fantastic video of their stay... Including the AMAZING SWEDISH CHEF breadmaking tutorial!! Gotta watch!!
Something I have been thinking about for a long time... the construction of these shelters is so beautiful, self-supporting top beams, resting on triangular wall structures. Really looking forward to learning about this myself, and honestly hoping lots of good people are going to join me. Building a house in a day... how cool.
With a bit of luck, the roundhouse may stay at the Rabbithole for a while, and become a learning space for all the good things to come. Looking forward to it!
"Our revolution will have dancing and excellent food" - Anne Dillard
Life's no good without music. So one might think... Well, I certainly do. And I also often wonder about the music we hear so much of these days - synthesized, computed, compressed - a sign of our times?
Anyhow, it's great to hear some real, 'handmade' music that would still be great during a power cut. And with our professional flutist WWOOFer Marina staying this week, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch our series of musical afternoons: the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. We had a small crowd this time, on short notice - but there was cake, tea... and an afternoon full of lovely music. The recording equipment packed up on the day (Ha! See above! :-) - but here's a retake and small taster for those who couldn't make it.
And with great music and a belly full of cake, we look forward to many further Tea Parties... The perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, me thinks!