To be a Dreamer and a Doer

The winter months here on our little soon-to-be farm have brought some interesting changes and realisations, here’s hoping we can recount a few for you.

We feel as though we’re finally getting to see some changes. We’re almost 6 months in and as we started in late summer and are now well into winter, we’re beginning to fully comprehend the necessity of the first principle of Permaculture, Observe and Interact. Noting little pockets of frost and which plants can and cannot hack it, how micro-climates can be provided by an array of things hitherto unknown to us, watching the migratory flocks of birds, and seeing the real slowing down of growth. All interesting. All integral for us to better understand where we are and how we can better live in harmony with changes for now and in future.

Red sky in the morning, our delight?
Red sky in the morning, our delight?

Another happening that has  become evident to us is something Geoff Lawton often recalls when teaching his Permaculture Design Courses; a time he confided in Bill Mollison and asked, “How do I know I’m getting it right?” To which, Geoff says, Bill replied, “Resources will gather around you, and more often than not they will be in the form of people.” It’s likely too early to tell but we’re just beginning to feel as though we may be on the right track. Resources of the non-biped variety have been pooling in dribs and drabs; friendly neighbours leaving us seeds, and tree guards  on our doorstep, a few tarpaulins, a fuel canister, and several large bags of a variety of fresh, local veges. We’ve also been blessed with many visitors, hard working or otherwise who’ve all contributed to our little piece of land in their own unique way.

The formation we found the gifted tree guards in!
The formation we found the gifted tree guards in!

There’s another that’s really sinking in, and it’s something we’d talked about long before we arrived on our land, and that’s the often misunderstood or overused concept and term, ‘necessity’. You may not need to live ‘off-grid’ for 6 months to comprehend it, though it certainly seems to have helped us. Questions have pervaded our once common place assumptions about living and daily existence. A simple example is that we’ve begun adding a ‘Do we?’ to many statements. “We need to install a shower with hot running water… Do we?” If we go back to our permaculture principles and apply small and slow solutions we come to the realisation that we can have a hot shower but in a manner that addresses our ethics via closing loops and creating little to no waste. To some it has the potential to sound like a lengthy process, but to us we enjoy our bucket wash under a tree. It allows us the time to assess and evaluate, reconnect as well as water the tree and harvest any run-off.

Early morning breakfast preparation
Early morning breakfast preparation

On a final note, we’re learning to not take ourselves so seriously, acknowledging the fact that we have to be dreamers and doers, and that there’s no defined dead line for this life.

 

Trouble in Paradise

It’s very easy to get caught up in the world, to forget to be human. It would seem right at the point everything was ready to happen it very nearly all fell apart.

We had our land, we understood largely what needed to be done in order to provide for ourselves and were working towards it on a daily basis. Yet somewhere between finding this future paradise and making the life changing shift to occupy the land and the lifestyle, we both fell victim to seemingly separate ailments that had a very similar core.

life-is-what-happens-to-you-while-you-are-busy-making-other-plans

With the ever humbling application of 20-20 hindsight we now know where and how it happened. We had become so preoccupied with the end goal and our future that there was no room left for living in the present. Fionn always pushing, backed by an aggressive holier-than-thou moral code and Laura ever cautious, and overtly sentimental. We had become too attached to an idea well before it’d even begun. These two things nearly broke us as we both continued to fight to be heard.

As many couples do in such situations we took a break from each other, reassessed what needed to change, made drastic attempts to change them, all while drip feeding each other new information about our individual progress. The ideas that kept resurfacing were stillness of mind and presence of being. Why work towards something that’s making us forget why it is we’re doing it in the first place? We wanted to make the world a better place and were destroying each other and those around us in the process.

Never miss

So we pulled the plug. We wanted to get out and see and do while we still could, before we got down to some serious work on our farm, we thought, ‘Let’s live now, now!’ Seems ridiculously simple, but at the time it was one of the most challenging processes we’ve ever attempted, and are still attempting to this day.

Another issue that became clear was that the convenience of living in a modern city was about as far away from our idealised future as possible. First we decided we needed to declutter. It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate over a few years, particularly when you’ve got a child. We also needed to get out of the city, find some open air, and some stillness. Laura wanted to re-embrace an aspect of her youth, and it seemed an old Combi van would help her do that, which worked in nicely with the ‘out of the city’ thing. Fionn wanted to finish something he’d signed on to do in India years ago; a ten day silent retreat, and signed on for a trip to Herefordshire, which nicely tied up the ‘stillness’ aspect.

With these things in mind we decided not to renew the lease on our flat, effectively making us homeless. Then we sold and gave away all our stuff, well the vast majority of it, and put in boxes the bare necessities, tucked them away in Laura’s parents attic (thanks Nanna & Papa x), then hit the road. All three of us in our little green Combi van.

Nietzsche

 

 

Hippies, Activists and Permaculturalists

So we found the land we were looking for. It was close to a village – within walking distance – it wasn’t too big, and it wasn’t too small -to use for the vague ambitions we had anyway – and it had direct access to a natural water source – the beautiful Terania Creek. The area we chose also had a lot to do with the fact that Fionn grew up near by, therefore we understood the climate and had some friends we could, and have since called on to help us out in our early stages. Another major plus for the area is that The Channon and more broadly the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, is renowned for it’s acceptance of alternative view points and pioneering, activist spirit in general. We therefore felt our attempts at living sustainably, or deep green wouldn’t be hampered by local opposition.

The Channon Market
The Channon Market

Yet all this aside, we genuinely had no idea where to start. We were still living in the UK at the time so the practicality of living and learning whilst on the land were not yet available to us. Luckily for our generation there’s a device called the internet, and so we began what we assumed would be a lengthy and tedious trawl.

On the second day of us freaking out about the big decisions and choices we had ahead of us we received an email from the local Real Estate agent who’d sold us the land with some niceties and one particular piece of information that really made our heads spin. He said that he’d just been over the road to visit the Permaculture Research Institute, and that he was amazed at what they’d been able to do and were doing with and for the land there. So we took a look. And kept looking.

This guy's our neighbour?!
This guy’s our neighbour?!

After a few months we had watched every video Geoff Lawton and his team had ever put out, were volunteering with our local team Brighton Permaculture Trust, and were spending every bit of spare time reading anything and everything from the likes of Masunobu Fukuoka, Sepp Holzer, Bill Mollison, David Holmgren and many others. We imagine this part of the story is like many others experience. Once you feel you’ve found your path you go headlong into it.

The next part of our story however, may not be entirely what you’d expect.

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