Where to From Here?

Income streams, being hip, and those who’ve no other choice (through choice)

We’ve recently celebrated our third year of land stewardship here on Djaning, and all in all, to say the least, we’re pretty chuffed. We’ve so far managed and are still managing rocky terrain both internally and literally.

As we sat in our king sized bed, kindly donated by an old friend, at the end of another long challenging day we made a point of noting some of the things we’ve been lucky enough to experience in our three previous years. Some, such as developing community interdependence are barely beginning, we feel we’ve barely scratched the surface of this integral element knowing more work is certainly needed and will always and forever require conciencious work, with its own notably enriching rewards. While others, like our ongoing plantings of both annuals and perrenials and the application of various methodologies within the diverse fields of bio-intensive, syntropic agriculture, forest gardening and others, have all improved exponentially. With every season, nay, every moment that passes being afforded another rewarding learning opportunity.

Laughing with pure joy at the end of another long day. This time implementing our first larger scale Syntropic system with help from community members and seriously ‘hip’ friend

With this in mind (still in our bed) we began to turn over our most hotly avoided and weary topic; poly income streams. Or, how to make ends meet so long as our dominant monetary economy exists. We’ve become quite used to being creative within our household economy, both in its physical form and its emotional form, from musical performances, teaching stints, sharing and exchanging fresh produce, and inviting new people in to our lives to share this journey with us. Though we tend to continue to come back to a pressing question:

How to create a life and livlihood within our current paradigm without feeding Wetiko?

To make an income from something that’s a passion seems to us the ideal. Which is essentially what it is we are trying to do. However in the process of selling our passion we’re often confronted with the notion of selling out. Need we pursue narcisitic VLOGing? Do we have to sell our souls to social media to turn a buck? We don’t want this to be just another fad. After all, being Green is the new Black. As The 70s funk band Tower of Power asked (in all their majesty) “What is hip?” furthered by the statement, “If you’re really hip the passing years will show.” 40 years of applied permaculture living should attest to this pursuit being genuinely “hip”.

In fact we feel this is beyond hip, beyond marketing. A return to The Mother, living “Off-Grid”, as if all those “on-grid” are some embrio straight out of a nightmarish scene from The Matrix. The irony is of course not lost on us. In our bid to return, our dismissal of The Grid, we’re spruiking ourselves through the very elements we’re endeavouring to supercede.

All this in mind (us still in bed – perhaps wearing furrowed brows) we look to the solutions. The people and things that have inspired us to get here. Those that are holding a light up ahead. We refer directly to our friends Artist As Family and their wholy inspiring approach (now notably removed from social media), and their expressed intention to not give any money, or as little as possible, to “The Man”. We also refer to our friends closer to home, eco-warriors who’ve been living off-grid before it was even a thing. Those who actively engage in such lifestyles because they know that any other choice would be to compromise not only their integrity but their soul, their spirit, their Joie de vivre!

In our initial ponderings and searchings for a more connected, more meaningful existence we were inspired by those putting it out there. They may well have been using social media and many of the other things they sought to upheave but in doing so they’ve inspired and encouraged countless others to do likewise.

So perhaps (droopy eyed now), their and our insistence on utilising these machines and mechanisms we’re doing as those prerenaissance, utilising the printing press to diseminate counter culture, inspiring the reformation and bohemians everwhere evermore. Or perhaps we’re just making ourselves and our little family that much happier, that much more resilient, that much more informed of all the potential that Gaia has to offer.

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.

 

Some Backstory

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We met in Sihnaoukville, Cambodia. Laura was volunteering for a children’s charity, where as Fionn was on indefinite hiatus from a fledgling teaching career. The one thing, among many others, we obviously had in common was a desire to “make the world a better place”. Of course at that time neither of us had any idea where that would lead us or how it was we were supposed to achieve such a vague life goal.

Laura teaching an Art class in Tamil Nadu
Laura teaching an Art class in Tamil Nadu

So, we fell madly in love, of course, and jumped on a great many bandwagons of “making the world a better place” as we went along. We lived and worked in India and Ghana. (Fionn for almost a year in India and both of us for 6 months there while Laura was pregnant with Iyla). We joined Occupy,  marched with Anonymous, cooked free food and attempted to discuss the major issues with anyone who was within earshot.

Million Mask March
London Million Mask March

Fionn really wanted to make “changing the world” his life and completed a Masters in International Development with his main interest being Political Science and Social Psychology. Although it was Fionn’s degree, we both ended up learning an enormous amount. As most good couples know, one can’t go through a life changing experience without the other also learning from it.

Unfortunately the main thing that was learned through the lengthy and at times brutal learning process was that basically everything that the conventional governmental and non governmental organisations had to offer, from our perspective, only served to further exacerbate our current global dilemma. Though what was potentially the worst of all was that very few within our immediate group of friends and associates wanted to know about it, or they did, but they were unwilling or stated they were unable to do anything about it.

After about 3 years of thinking and questioning that reached some very deep and dark places, the only genuine, yet rather vague conclusion we could come to was to contribute as little as possible to our current trajectory. The best way to do this, we felt, was to get off grid and supply as much of our own needs as was physically possible.

Then we found this…

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