Four Letter Words

There are two four letter words which have dominated my life in the past week.

In the media over the last few years I have noticed a new word emerging – you might have seen it too: EOFY.  Retailers have EOFY sales and promotions to try and boost their numbers for the End Of the Financial Year.  Creative media people come up with these terms which seem, somehow, to stick in our brains and over a couple of years, we start to understand what EOFY means … even though it’s not really a word, but rather an acronym.  In my new role, which I blogged about recently I am slave to EOFY.  That time of the year when the taxation department decrees that we shall all make account for our financial activities, reconcile our expenses and deductions and balance the ledger.

And so, one week after starting a new role, I am driven by EOFY and all its taxation implications, not just for myself but for over 1000 other people!  And the fun does not stop on 30 June.  No, in fact that is when the reconciliation begins.  And so I have entered the busiest time of the year, not only with the steep learning curve of a new role (thankfully in an organisation that I am familiar with), an increase in working hours and a change agenda to drive, but also with the legislative demands of EOFY.  I’m revelling in the challenge of course, and I know I am alive!

In the past week we have also received confirmation that all conditions of the sale of our house have been met – so we have SOLD!

We have sold the house which is the first home we made together, the place where we created our marriage, deepened our relationship, developed shared rituals and made lasting memories.  A place where we have laughed and cried, dreamed and reminisced, worked and found rest.  We have loved living in this house, but as we consciously move towards a more sustainable life, it no longer meets our needs which have changed since we have become aware of peak oil and its implications.  We want a home which is more sustainable – able to take advantage of passive solar principles, a house which has lower embodied energy, a place which is right sized to the type of lifestyle we are building towards.

Two little four letter words changed the shape of my life this week – for the immediate future and the long term future … I’m looking forward to seeing how the adventure unfolds.


Busy

Why is it that sometimes life is so busy I don’t have time to do anything I really want to do? It’s just busy working and living! The last week or so has been hectic to say the least. Starting a new job this week feels like it gives me less control over my time, at least for a while until I settle in. It’s a change that I invited though so it feels okay. Change is so much easier when we have some choice about it even though we may not control the whole process or the outcomes completely.

This change in role, I hope, will set up the foundation and build skills which will enable us to purchase some land where we plan on living a more sustainable life, in a more sustainable way… It’s a multi-objective change. So while life is busy, it is focused on us achieving a better lifestyle and there is a timeframe in place. So for now I will put up with the over-busyness of life … I think I can see a small sliver of relaxation and spending time with the Gorgeous One on the horizon next weekend and will hold onto that as the week progresses. At least we are heading in the right direction, even if it is slower than I would prefer. Doing something each week helps me to feel like we are making progress in the right direction … As they say in the classics “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”…


Foggy Rainy Morning

When I awoke on Monday morning and pulled up the blind, I looked out to find I had been enveloped in a misty fog which had descended during the night.

I looked across the valley, only I couldn’t see the valley.  I could only see the trees which are on our side of the hill.  Beyond the gully – just grey fog.  Lovely!  A day when I want to stay inside, not face the elements and keep warm.

Problem no. 1 – it is Monday – a work day.  Which means I cannot stay inside, I must face the elements and I will probably get cold and wet doing so.  Which I wouldn’t mind if I wasn’t expected to show up looking corporately dressed and composed.

Stoke the fire – it’s going to be cold when I get home.  Fortunately I’d planned ahead and brought firewood in last night – so didn’t need to brave the weather just yet.  Feed the cats – that’s okay too as they sleep under cover and I don’t have to go outside of that cover to feed them.  Eat breakfast – great morning for porridge – such a comfort food, so warm and sweet with honey drizzled on it.

Feed the chooks – make them some porridge (they don’t get drizzled honey on theirs, just oats and water), grab the umbrella, and the chook food bucket (scraps of yesterday) – both hands full, step outside.  Not only is it foggy but just at the precise moment I chose to step outside it started raining again!  Of course – no time to turn back the clock is ticking and I’m due at work soon.  Stepped in a puddle on the way to the chook yard and remembered that the sole in my shoe is not waterproof – note to self: avoid the puddles and think about getting that sole repaired (attempting to live sustainably can sometimes have its down side too like I have to remember to get my shoes repaired and find something else to wear while I do, instead of just rushing out to buy another pair because financially I could).  Chook house open – chooks come running out to see what delights I have brought them – they don’t seem to care about the rain – just let them at that porridge!  No eggs yet today – good – I don’t have to bend down to collect it and risk getting mud on my work clothes.  I must look a sight in my corporate outfit, with umbrella and chook food bucket, scrabbling about in the rain in their yard!

Back down the path – might as well check the rain gauge to see how much we’ve had over night while I’m out here in the rain anyway.  4.8mm – not a bad start to the day and I mentally calculate how many litres of water that has put in our tanks – just over 250 litres – thank you very much – I’ll have a long shower tomorrow to celebrate!

Notice there are some interesting looking mushrooms growing in our potato patch – won’t eat them – my mushroom identification skills aren’t that great – never know what might happen!

Back inside – what a start to the day!  I love the sensation of rain – the sound it makes on the roof, the way it changes the colour of the bark on the trees, the way it glistens on the leaves, the way it makes the flowers droop under its weight, the way it seems to wash everything clean and make the whole world smell nice.  I wouldn’t even mind being out in the rain or stuck in a foggy valley, if I didn’t have to “corporate up”.  One day …


Cocooning

Today I have been cocooning.  After spending some time out and about this morning, by lunch time it was time to come home and cocoon.  Cocooning has two primary characteristics.

The first of which is that it is about being isolated from the world for a while, sometimes by myself, sometimes with my best friend (who also happens to be my husband!).  It is about taking time out from the busy-ness of life and just being.  Perhaps spending an entire afternoon reading, or chatting with each other or relaxing.  Doesn’t sound like much but somedays in a busy life it seems like a great indulgence and other days it seems a near impossibility.

The second characteristic of cocooning is that it must be comfortable.  Whether that is sitting in my favourite chair in front of the warmth of a winter fire, curled up with a handmade quilt for extra comfort or whether that is sitting in a cool spot in the garden in summer and just enjoying the garden.   Typically it does not involve technology – that is the surprising part!  No laptop, ipad, mobile phone.  Perhaps a book, a newspaper, a magazine.  Perhaps a glass of water or wine, a mug of hot chocolate or coffee.

That is all it takes to cocoon.  Perhaps the best thing about cocooning is that it can take several hours.  A minimum of three hours at least.  A time when you don’t have to be anywhere, do anything specifically, and the chores and housework are put aside for a while. Cocooning from the world, from work, from responsibility and just taking time out.

Some people are fans of the slow food movement, I’d like to start a slow afternoon movement!  In a bid to live a more sustainable life, sustainability sometimes comes in the form of slowing down, taking time out and just being.

Living a sustainable life is about finding balance, and today I found that in the cocoon that involved my favourite comfy chair, a handmade quilt and some time in front of the fireplace.  Tomorrow I may equally find balance in busy-ness and productivity.

You don’t have to have a cat curled up on
the couch with you to cocoon – any favourite pet will do!


The precipice

This is not meant to be a gloomy blog.  Today however, I feel like I am standing on the precipice – looking out to the future, wondering with mixed emotions where it will lead.  This was sparked in part by a blog I read today about transition.  The person who writes it really focuses on leadership in an organisational sense, but the principles he talks about in terms of transition really could apply to anyone transitioning from one thing to another – perhaps like two people selling up their house in search of a more sustainable life.

He says  ‘Transition is the no-man’s-land of “in between” where old hangs on while new is not yet…. New dreams are conceived in a present that isn’t working.  Products are outdated.  Systems fail.”  You can read his blog here.

That’s about where I feel I am at the moment … the old pre-peak oil world is no longer working, the house we loved so much when we bought it, in light of peak oil and resource shortages in many ways doesn’t appeal to us anymore.  The growth economy is slowing globally.  I’m no economist, but Greece and Spain are obvious indicators of this and even the Australian economy is slowing, reflected by several recent cash interest rate drops in an attempt by the Reserve Bank to stimulate the economy.  It wouldn’t need stimulating if it wasn’t slowing!   Something isn’t working, systems that we have relied on for many years are failing.

And so our global economy is transitioning to something that perhaps we haven’t known in our lifetimes … and we must change in response too.  And that transition can feel a bit like a no-man’s-land when we don’t really know where we will end up.  We need to have confidence in our own abilities to adapt and change in response to what is going on around us and the faith to dream of and work towards a better future.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” (Ghandi).

To be doing something about change … to keep moving towards our goals of being more self sufficient and reviewing our lives to be more sustainabe and see where the seas of change take us may help!  Knowing that we are doing something can help to deal with all the things we can’t influence that make us feel like we are standing on the precipice.

At least the view is pretty good from the precipice!


Why “The North Glass”?

Trying to live a sustainable life means, in part, trying to utilise the renewable resources around us – often in place of the fossil fuels to which we have become accustomed.

Living in the Southern Hemisphere means the north glass of a house is one of the warmest places in winter and one of the lightest places in summer. The north side of the house is where we want to live all year round.  With correct eave width,  the glass is shaded in summer and the winter sun can warm through the glass as it arcs through the sky at a lower angle. It is one of the most fundamental ideas of passive solar gain.  One of the easiest ways to keep heating costs down in winter and cooling costs down in summer is to orient our houses in congruence with the path of the sun.

So I called this blog, “The North Glass” because I’m focusing on trying to live a more sustainable life, in congruence with the resources available and the environment around me.  I believe if we get the fundamentals right, the rest will follow as we consciously try to live in a way that has less impact on the planet and provides us with the  things we need.

I read a study recently that said on average, Australians are now showing signs of deficiency of Vitamin D.  The sun is a great source of Vitamin D and while we need to be careful in summer, spending some time outside everyday, during the safe hours, can boost our Vitamin D – no pills, no potions required.  Just get outside and get active for a while. And when its just too cold to go outside, stand by the north glass and soak up the warmth and light from there.  Its fundamental to our wellbeing and comfort.


Autumnal winter in the garden

As I walked around our garden today, I discovered that, despite the fact we are now into winter, there are some beautiful things flowering or just looking beguilingly wintery.   It seems I have a blend of summer, autumn and winter at the moment.

A “Bridal Lace” rose still brightens my day, and has been flowering since spring.  Now into winter it continues to flower and produce more buds to come behind this bloom.  Soon my thoughts will turn to pruning and preparing for the next delightful spring flowers, but for now I will let them blossom.

The elm tree, which provides deep cooling shade in the height of summer, is always late losing its leaves, despite this being an expected autumn thing, it never loses its leaves until June.  Its canopy thins out as its leaves turn yellow, drop away and reveal the thick grey winter clouds above.

The Alstroemeria ‘Princess Lilies’ which die down completely in summer, and come back to life once the days cool in autumn, have been blooming for about 3 months now – pretty in their pot by the hedge, giving colour outside my back door.

A terracotta pot filled with colourful pansies brightens one corner of the courtyard and will last all winter, revelling in the cool days and colder nights.

A row of rocket, planted in late summer is flourishing in the veggie garden along side the broad beans and continues to provide spicy, peppery leaves to enjoy in a salad or in a wrap.

 The arum lilies are just coming into to flower – a sure sign that winter is on its way, defying the cold and enjoying the rain, their blooming heads poke up above the lush leaves which surround them.

I’m grateful that I don’t live in a climate where it snows in winter and covers up these cherished delights – it such a pleasure to walk amongst their colour and fragrance in the cool of a winter day and enjoy the changing of the seasons.