Educating your ears

The last couple of months it’s been all about the podcasts. And I mean ALL about the podcasts. Sure I’d listened to some here and there before but not quite at the rate I’m flying through them at the moment, (on reflection, it’s probably something to do with having three kids at school for the first time, yes ever- my ears are ready!)

Now, if I missed something interesting on the radio, I can catch up. If I have a particular subject I’d like to get to know a whole lot better there are generally oodles to choose from.

While there are some fantastic podcasts to choose from there are some eye crossing ones that simply don’t work for me and generally I’ll find the stop button fairly quickly. I’m all for giving most things a fair crack, but there is no point in listening to something that doesn’t resonate, I value that time and want to make sure I’m using it wisely. Educating my ears has been very enjoyable.

A few favourites in the last few months.

Conversations with Richard Fidler: so many varied topics in here.

A Small Voice: interviews with photographers.

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: creativity and all her shades.

Chat 10 Looks 3: Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales talk about art, books, politics and everything in between in an intelligent and funny way.

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What are some of your favourite podcasts to listen to at the moment?

Contemplating Cumquat Marmalade

Making a large batch of cumquat marmalade is a perfect time for deep contemplation. Not so much of the fruit themselves, but using the opportunity to completely dissolve into the task of cutting the flesh open, separating the pips, and cooking it up.

It’s a long labour of love if you have cumquats like mine, with small balls of juicy tart fruit that are filled with those pectin producing seeds. You need them out, but you also need them to set your marmalade. Cut, separate, simmer, stir stir stir, test, and bottle. While there’s not a lot of room for nodding off here, you do still need to pay attention, there’s also room for having a good think.

And so the wonderful dissolving process begins.

With hands busy, the task of making marmalade that tastes like sunshine in a jar begins, and with that, like many creative and repetitive tasks- the mind is set free.

To wonder at will, delving deep into ideas that often few other tasks in any given day allow. You need these kind of activities now and then. Busy hands creating something, but also time to slow it all on down, contemplate the intricacies of life, ponder on the importance of speaking up, our moral values as a society (or maybe just how good that sunshiney marmalade is going to taste with a few squares of dark chocolate tonight.)

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This cumquat tree was originally planted as a Tree of Life.

The marmalade was loosely based around this recipe.

Conversations with Community…Travelling Slow with Frances Antonia

fran

Today, a special post as it’s Part III of Conversations with Community. A series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing some truly inspiring things. These are people quietly changing things up, following untraveled paths, living creative lives, and connecting in different ways that are often ignored in our culture of time racing.

Today is someone that I first met through instagram. Someone that I felt I had an instant connection to, while also muttering damn it, why didn’t we meet when we were actually living in the same city? However we didn’t, and despite the distance of a planet between us now, I still feel a connection as this woman lives like she means it and that, is something I hold very dear.

Please take a little extra time to get know Frances Antonia

Fran thank you for dropping by for chat before you embark on the next chapter of your slow travel adventures. Before we go any further though, super important question first up… tea coffee and favourite thing to eat for brunch? (What shall I bring and where would we go?)

Coffee! I’m not a tea drinker, I gave it up, hoping that fares well now that we are living in Ireland. Could we eat at yours? A garden abundant with tomatoes, your lady baker sourdough and if you added an egg any which way (I’m not fussy) my perfect brunch. I’m a one-on-one kind of brunch date. We’d need to make time to eat because there is soooo much to debrief, never confuse a few introverts on the same page as quiet types.

In December 2016 you and your family of 6, packed up a life in Sydney, Australia to embark on an adventure that many people yearn to do, but few have the courage to see through. One suitcase each, six passports, and plans that are being made on the road. How long have you been planning this trip and how did you know it was time to get it started?

I read Janice Macleod’s Paris Letters while holidaying and the crazy idea of getting down to one suitcase each really struck a chord with me, with that came the dream of travelling Europe in a camper. Deep down I’ve always had that dream. I’m not sure I believed for a minute that we’d actually get down to a suitcase each nor take an extended trip travelling in Europe (2 adults, 4 kids) but I am a dreamer. Luckily I’m also a do’er, a ‘dreamy do’er’ (love these words, found that phrase on the onegirl instagram account).

At that time we were living in Sydney having moved from Melbourne for my husband’s work. Sydney was a hard adjustment for me. I found the pace in Sydney anxiety causing and at times I felt like I was suffocating. I actually for the first time in my life had panic attacks. I’m not someone who lives well with stress or busy but I am good at changing things up that aren’t working. Inward I went with the idea of one suitcase each and a dream to create a life where we could live more freely and travel more. I delved into the stories of those who were living a more minimalist lifestyle. I devoured the words of people like Joshua Becker, Sarah Wilson, Brooke McAlary and The Minimalists.

The purging began, Europe was still a pipe dream (mostly mine), my husband couldn’t see how it could happen. The more we decluttered the more life started changing. I started blogging and connecting with a pretty awesome tribe of slow living people, a whole new world was opening up. We became more about moments over things and I continued to take time out for solitude for me personally and my children. Simplifying wasn’t only about possessions but also about food, waste, commitments, finances…slowly the calm returned as did clarity.

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I found my (20 year old) hiking boots in the back of my cupboard, I put them back on and we started hiking regularly. It was life changing to disconnect from the consumerist society we lived in and back to what was real. We became road tripping campers on weekends and during school holidays, no longer just annual family summer camp trips. Fellow travellers and hikers are excellent people to surround yourself with, smiling storytellers.

I started taking the kids camping on my own during school holidays and on one particular camping trip in Byron Bay my husband flew up for the weekend. We had a straight honest conversation while walking barefoot along the beach under the moon and decided we were done with the Sydney life, he had caught up to where I was (thankfully)…there was just no way we could have the family balance and life we wanted if we stayed living and working in Sydney. It just wasn’t worth the sacrifice.

We started to plan, we’d use his long service and annual leave, keep our Melbourne home rented, we’d sell the car and all our possessions and we’d save to make an extended family trip a reality. We’d buy ourselves some time out. We liked the idea of slow travel, basing ourselves with locals and taking our time to explore areas. We also knew that if we could keep the costs low we could travel longer. I’d read a book called On The Road With Kids by John Ahern and we investigated the motorhome option he and his family used on their life changing year in Europe. Basically, you buy a camper with an agreed buy back option. If we stay in free camper spots and utilise networks like French Passion our accommodation spend would be affordable (cheaper than renting in Sydney) and we could also cook for ourselves. Although there will be meals eaten out, it’s the mediterranean.

We actually have 11 passports Brydie! A change in the law a few years ago allowed me to claim Dutch citizenship for the kids and I (mum is Dutch) so I jumped on that. Certainly having EU citizenship has allowed us to create a year of different experiences. When Greg resigned from work he was offered the opportunity to work from home. We debated that long and hard but felt that if we took that option our European adventure had a whole new realm of possibility. We would have an opportunity to create a lifestyle that suited so we took ‘work from home’ literally and creatively.

With my EU citizenship and Greg’s ability to work from home we decided to settle for winter in Ireland and live the country life. We have a family connection here and have gratefully been able to rent a furnished cottage from them. Australians can be in Ireland for 90 days but for sure our red passports have made it smoother. The kids are attending the local school and our adrenal systems are calm as we live in this community where everyone waves, the air is fresh, there’s not a billboard in sight and the quiet is simply blissful.

At the end of the school term we have 4 months of long service and holidays up our sleeve to camper our way across the mediterranean. After that we are open, with an ability to work from home, adventurous spirits  and pockets full of optimism we plan to stay longer in Europe to create a family chapter here. I think this quote from William Faukener resonates

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Was it hard getting rid of a lot of your things? How did you decide what would stay and what would go?

Tús maith, leath na hoibre A good start is half the work. Gaelic proverb I’ve learnt here.

We didn’t quite get down to a suitcase each. We have about 6 cubic metres of possessions left (2 pieces of furniture, the kids keepsakes, A LOT of lego, some artwork, our kitchenware and of course some special things). That for us is a comfortable minimalism and it has meant that we were able to shift it here to store comfortably until we decide where we will settle next (a tiny corner of a shed is all we need).

I found decluttering the easiest and least overwhelming part of embracing a more minimalist life. By nature I’m suited to a slower more minimalist life. It was a 2 year process and it took time, I had to always be mindful of the others in my house to make sure they came with me on the journey. I’ve never been particularly attached to things, well most things..I found the Pat Rafter US Open final videos hard to declutter (so I didn’t). I don’t miss anything and no one has asked for anything they used to own.

I started with things that we didn’t need, didn’t love and the those things that belonged to a part of my life that no longer existed. I started shelf by shelf, cupboard by cupboard. As a shelf or storage unit emptied I sold or donated it. All the excess plastic in the kitchen, the window sill full of tea light holders and dust collectors, the second TV, the Wii, toys the children had grown out of, bathroom cupboards, medicine cabinets, the stuff we were hanging onto just-in-case and any excess furniture, prints or ornaments that were taking up space. I sold all my (past life) high heeled boots, I never wore them and they were completely impractical as a pram pushing mum in hilly Sydney. I found those hiking boots I talked about earlier behind the boots and shoes…that’s how the magic happens, when you let go of what you don’t need.

The less toys there were to clean the less overwhelming the kids spaces were and the more creative they became. There were times when I needed to bring in the big guns, I do remember googling how to declutter books. Joshua Becker came to the rescue there, he’s written well about it. It was an ongoing process and I just continued to go with it as the momentum built.

The boundaries kept shifting. I would complete one room and then after a few weeks I could go back again and I’d be ready to move out more. We started getting down to what we needed, one back-pack each not three, slowly curating wardrobes that only took a shelf each. Did we really need cushions and rugs?? Nope. Another little trick I used was to think of Colleen from 365 things, every day declutter something. In 365 days that will be 365 things.

We moved house at one point and that was a great way to declutter a whole lot more, we moved with only the furniture we needed…it only took 1 day to unpack when we moved. I knew then that I had come a long way and was getting somewhere. We had moved to Sydney with 1.5 shipping containers a year earlier. Moving to a smaller house where all four kids shared a room (11, 9, 6 and 3 at the time) allowed us to save significantly more and give the kids some green space. I had to commute for the school run, that was hard but the sacrifice was worth it, it was a means to get to this point.

The things we kept had to be things we used, things we found beautiful and LOVED, nothing is doubled up and of course there are some sentimental keepsakes. I have a box of baby things but not their entire babyhood. We don’t keep old school books, just some writing and art work. Our entire CD collection is now digitised and also our paperwork. I have a couple of display folders with the important documents otherwise it’s all on a hard drive (and backed up).

I understand this is far less than most people would consider living without but without paring back this much this trip would not have been possible for us. We knew we needed to let go of everything to free ourselves to move our family without ties and honestly just to feel like we weren’t locked in. The stories I could tell you about the people who bought our stuff are a whole other conversation, so many interesting people. One day when we are settling down again, I’ll be one of those people buying from someone who is off on an adventure.

While travelling, what do you think will be a priority for you and your family?

There are so many awesome things about travelling as a family, I guess briefly in no particular order:

Time: Uninterrupted family time. Time to really get to know each of our children, to indulge their learning passions, to teach and learn from them while creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Slow travel: A very loose and flexible plan of where we will go. Meeting locals, enjoying customs, creativity and language. We don’t want to be bound by an itinerary, if we love it we’ll stay.

Adventure: We want to climb mountains, explore forests, swim in rivers, watch the sun rise and set, and wonder at a skies full of stars.

Food: We love food and the stories behind the food we eat. We want to experience local seasonal food, shop in markets, meet the farmers and be adventurous with our palettes. We are excited about sharing this with our children.

Growth: As our children grow we want to be there to help develop the life skills they need to ‘adult’ and as adults we are all still growing.

Values: Living with our values, voluntary simplicity, having a crack, kindness and a growing responsibility for our footprint.

It is not too different from how we try to approach our everyday life, we don’t always get it right but we keep at it.

Have you travelled a lot previously?

I do blame thank my parents somewhat for my gypsy soul. They were migrants who loved the Australian landscape so my childhood memories are filled with adventure, exploration and camping trips. Every holiday the station wagon was packed to the rafters and we were road tripping.

If there was a mountain to climb we climbed it, a wave to take we were on it, a pier to jump off we jumped!…I’m sure you get the picture. I also attend a Girl Guide World Jamboree in Indonesia when I was 12, there were people from all over the world and it was an awesome experience in my young life. My eyes were wide open and probably the seeds of wanderlust were firmly planted there. I glad my mum said yes when I saw the flyer and asked if I could go, I worked hard to fundraise for that trip and it was a door I’ll always be grateful I stept into.

My gap year was spent working in the Whitsundays which I know you know is an amazing adventure. A place of great natural beauty and of course many other young people from all over the world only to happy to explore and (drink) in the experience, I also enjoyed the solitude of hiking the Islands. I enjoyed travelling in my 20’s mostly Europe and Asia and my husband (then boyfriend) and I lived in Perth for a bit and also spent 3 years living in Amsterdam in our early 30’s. I think we’ve actually been plotting how to get back to Europe ever since, we feel at home in European culture.

You’ve just spent three months in rural Ireland and are now getting ready for the next chapter of your travels in a motor home in Europe. What are some of the things you are looking forward to when travelling on the road?

I feel like I have talked a lot!

So in a nutshell…sharing this adventure with my family, having my eyes and mind blown with wonder, conversations over food, meeting community on the road, home being where we park it, waking up with wild rivers and mountains at our doorstep, basically every single moment of this delicious chapter that we are so fortunate to have been able to create.

I never take a day for granted.

Fran, I truly can not wait to hear more about your wonderful trip as it slowly unfolds. To you and your dear family, travel well.

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If you would like to follow more of Fran’s journey, she writes for She Went Wild also hangs out, inspiring the masses on Instagram @Frances.Antonia and her blog Gentle Intention.

conversations-with-community

Conversations with Community– a series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing truly inspiring things. These are some of the people quietly changing things up, following untravelled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.

Go on, take a few extra minutes to meet some of these inspiring, wonderful women here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slowing it down with Elvis

nostaligia festival 03 || cityhippyfarmgirlnostalgia festival || cityhippyfarmgirlnostalgia festival 02 || cityhippyfarmgilnostalgia festival 01 || cityhippyfarmgirlnostalgia festival 04 || cityhippyfarmgirl

Sometimes fast sneaks up. The calendar is suddenly full, the kitchen benches cluttered and conversation hasty as doors are closed and opened simultaneously. That’s alright though, it really is. Ebb and flow right.

For me, it’s important to balance all that out with a few days of slowing it down some.

There’s a long chat holding the boy’s hand. A walk in soft rain with a reluctant whippet. A short coffee somewhere different. Chuckles with friends. Lots of chuckles…chuckles are good for the soul. Taking the time to listen to stories with strangers, and hanging out with the family, somewhere different.

That somewhere different was the Nostalgia Festival in Kurri Kurri. A place where time has slowed right on down, Elvis is still the king, (and cars had a turning circle of half a football field.)

 

 

Bee B&B Hotels in School

Weleda Bee B&B Hotel || cityhippyfarmgirl

While there are many benefits to encouraging native bees within the home, and the surrounding area. Setting up a hive or an insect hotel in a public space and school is in many ways even better. Why? Because you are encouraging that conversation to continue, the education to spread and that beautiful enthusiasm to snow ball, running further than just your immediate household.

And who better to do that than our pint-sized enthusiastic future generations. Welcome to keeping and encouraging native bees at school.

Whether it’s an inner city funky-vibe school or a relaxed red-dirt outback playground, you are pretty much guaranteed to find room for a bee hotel.

 

bee hotel- best for your solitary native bees

bee hive- for your social native and honey bees 

 

While you can easily set up a bee hotel yourself within your school (or home.) The organic skin care company Weleda has recently started an initiative to get primary schools set up with a ‘bee B&B hotel’.

The project is aimed at teaching our primary school kids, the super important stuff like biodiversity, the role of pollinators, and with a starring role…our native solitary bees.  Doing this by building their own Bee B&B Hotel.

One dollar (A$1) from every product sold goes towards funding the project (until June), and with 70 schools involved already, they are looking at expanding that to further schools over the next few months, (this initiative is free.)

The company offered to send me one to make up with my kiddo’s, and help spread the word. While I’ve made an insect hotel before and also have a native bee hive, I’ve also got a soft spot for our native pollinators, and love nothing better than trying to encourage that amongst others…especially school kids!

 

Weled infographic 2016_V7

“Primary schools across the country are building a nationwide network of bee hotels to help conserve our native bees, improve education about the importance of biodiversity and ultimately, increase Australia’s food security.

The Weleda Bee B&B Hotel initiative has now launched with more than 70 schools on board, and registrations are now open for more schools to get involved.

The project gives schools an opportunity to turn their kitchen garden into a place for native solitary bees to take shelter and rear their young. The ‘bed’ is the bee hotel and the ‘breakfast’ is the school garden.”

bee hotel 1 || cityhippyfarmgirlbee hotel || cityhippyfarmgirl

If you would like to build you own, give it a go, and get creative. There are oodles of designs out there to play with. I whole heartedly believe that every school should have one or several of these. It’s incredibly multi-faceted in terms of education, while providing a practical use as well.

If you have a school that you would like to be involved…have a click here Bee Hotel Weleda

If you would like to read a bit further on native bees in general, jump back here.

Bee B&B Hotel || cityhippyfarmgirl

Lessons in Pumpkins- 10 top tips on growing and storing

Pumpkin growing lessons arrived thick a fast, starting from the multitude of pumpkin seedlings that shot out from anywhere I plonked compost. To the cutting into that first perfectly formed all rounded pumpkin body. Everything in between was all part of the ‘Pumpkin Education’.

Lesson #1 Pumpkins are EVERYWHERE

These little ladies popped up well and truly everywhere. Anywhere I put compost. There was pumpkin seedlings ready to go. Far too many for the various garden beds so I was selective and only kept the most robust looking ones to continue growing. They are heavy feeders, so keep them going in a good amount of that compost, they’ll love you for it.

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Lesson #2 Pumpkins need SPACE

While their root system isn’t particularly extensive their runners are. They will keep reaching out, and will gently root where ever they’re running along the ground. That’s all good. Just let them do their thing.

 

Lesson #3 Male or Female FLOWERS?

It’s pretty easy to tell a male and female flower. One clearly has a small pumpkin forming beneath the flower, the other is just an elongated flower. The flowers are open for 4-6 hours generally early in the morning. With our garden beds there was ratio of 1:10 girl, boy flowers.

pumpkins-cityhippyfarmgirl

Lesson #4 Female flowers are DROPPING OFF

For a variety of reasons this can happen. Too hot, not getting pollinated, not enough water? I despaired watching every single one of the small baby female pumpkins drop off. What to do? I couldn’t control the weather, I did the best that I could with keeping water up to them, and having a multitude of bees obviously circulating the garden they should have been doing the job of pollinating. But where they?

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Lesson #5 How to HAND POLLINATE

Oddly, it looks like they weren’t being pollinated. As since I started hand pollinating, I had 100% success rate with pumpkins continuing to grow past flowering stage. How to hand pollinate is easy. Take a stick, gently scrape the stamen of the male flower and rub the pollen against the female. (Or simply pluck off a male flower.)

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Lesson #6 Watch them GROW

With consecutive days being ridiculously hot over the December and January, I’m sure if I squinted a little, I could see them grow. As I didn’t know what variety I was growing initially, due to having come out of the compost, we had to hazard a guess. They looked like Kent (otherwise known as Jap) pumpkins though, which meant that approximately 100 days needed to pass until harvest time.

Lesson #7 Time to HARVEST

The pumpkin vine will start to visibly die off. The stalk around the pumpkin will harden, the colour of the pumpkin skin might change a little and if you tap the pumpkin it will sound more hollow than solid.

pumpkins-cityhippyfarmgirl

Lesson #8 How to CURE and STORE

Make sure there is at about 5-10cm or so of stalk, when you cut it from the rest of the plant. You now need to cure it, which means leaving it out in a well ventaliated spot, where the skin will harden and be a natural protective layer. Gently rotating the pumpkin round a bit every few days for thorough air flow. I did pick one a little early in my eagerness to

Lesson #9 Favourite Pumpkin RECIPES

Surely the pumpkin recipe possibilities is pretty much endless? (Say that quickly 10 times!) The old favourites Pumpkin and Fetta Sausage Rolls are still, well favourites. Pumpkin dhal an easy frugal dinner, pumpkin scones and winter staple, pumpkin soup. All recipes that are simply far too hot to even contemplate at the moment (still hot, damn hot.) But the good thing is the store beautifully.

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Lesson #10 How to SAVE and STORE SEEDS

Scoop out the seeds, rinse out the gloopy bits and let them air dry really well over a couple of weeks. How you dry and store them is really important, as you don’t want any mould on them. More info on all the how’s on storing, is in a post I wrote over at Milkwood last year.

 

 

 

Voluntary Simplicity: In the Garden

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Simple living, or voluntary simplicity isn’t a new concept in this household, but it is one that gets constantly edited, it evolves and gets reassessed as needed. It’s also something that while my children have always grown up with it, as this stage of their lives I’m finding I’m explaining more of why we make certain conscious decisions, and the longer term effects of those decisions. The why we do things and not just because.

Sometimes I can feel like I’m all over it and other times it feels like I’m floating in mini version of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The good thing about that though, is despite occasional overwhelming feelings there’s always something that shifts and then counter balanced by a complete sense of fully bodied satisfaction, (and that is always a good thing.)

Just over 12 months ago we swapped small apartment inner city living for a house in a smaller city, and surrounding suburban area. It’s close to shops, schools, transport and health caregivers when needed.

Another important choice for us was to be able to grow things. So now with the multiple neighbours that I know by name, there came a fairly blank canvas space of a backyard.

Making that move meant initially we didn’t have a lot of things that we would need (like) to embark on growing a lot of our own vegetables. Wheelbarrows, spades, pitch forks etc weren’t items that I had needed to access with a previously small shared concrete city courtyard.

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To get started with our growing, somethings we bought straight up, (I knew there would be an initial outlay of items as our number one aim was to get things growing. We wanted to eat from our back door step!) Somethings were given to us, somethings passed on to us as were no longer needed by the original owners. Somethings we bought second hand, and some the things we simply borrowed.

Ultimate Goal? To be growing as much as possible utilising the space we have, keeping costs down and equipment to a bare minimum.

How did we set about it and how do we continue to manage it? (As I mentioned it’s a constantly evolving process.)

Gumtree- either bought second hand or freebies, also been great for selling things we no longer needed to keep clutter to a minimum and redirect $ to something else more useful.

Borrow- lawn mowers we borrowed two before buying our own push mower. I still get a smug sense of satisfaction of hearing virtually nothing when mowing the lawn. As more grass gets turned over for edible growing space, I’m hoping the lawn mowers use will gradually decrease.

Trade- Somethings I refused outright to get, and a whipper snipper was one of them. Borrow one sure, but I didn’t want to buy one. (Actually we never did end up borrowing one either.) Living in an area where people pride themselves on their grass care. I asked a neighbour if he would trade the occasional edging out the front for baked goods. He could sleep easier knowing our edges were looking less scruffy and my conscience was clear knowing we didn’t have a garage full of implements that might be used once in a blue moon.

Hire- And if we do change our mind on using that whipper snipper, or anything else for that matter. Well I can hire one from a household a couple of km’s away at an hourly rate from Open Shed. (Another awesome example of the share economy.)

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There will always be a juggle between keeping/finding/sourcing things that might be useful in the future, (but have no immediate use) and keeping our gardening gear to a minimum, (that’s our reality and the way we’ve chosen to do things in this period. While tools are a fairly easy decision. I’m finding more and more discarded wood finding its way in as it has the potential to be made into something else entirely. I’m ok with that, as mentioned in the beginning, it’s an evolving process. Choices are made, as opportunities present themselves.

Conscious decisions over unthinkingly just taking… this is our version of voluntary simplicity, in the garden.

Helpful links

Gumtree

Open Shed

 

 

Conversations with Community: Tricia Eco (Treading Lightly)

Tricia Hogbin

Today it’s continuing on from a new series I started at the end of last year, Conversations with Community. A series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing some truly inspiring things. These are people quietly changing things up, following untraveled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.

Today though, someone who often shares ways in which we can all slow down a little and make time for the important stuff is Tricia Hogbin. Otherwise known as @TriciaEco on her popular instagram handle, or where I first was drawn to her words and way of living, her blog Little Eco Foot Prints.

Grab a cool drink, put your feet up, and I hope you enjoy Part II of Conversations with Community.

Most important question first up… tea coffee and favourite thing to eat for afternoon tea? (Cake, biscuits, savoury, sweet? What shall I bring?)

Tea. Super strong with a good dash of milk thanks.

My response would likely be different at any other time of day. Pausing for a cuppa is something I treasure and I even have a cuppa routine. First thing in the morning it’s tea, then one strong coffee, then too many teas to count. If it’s just me i’ll simply toss loose leaf tea into a cup and drink bushman style – leaving the tea leaves to sink the bottom. If I’m sharing, I’ll be more civilised and use a teapot. Late afternoon I switch to herbal teas. Mostly home grown. Current favourites include lemon balm, nettle or camomile.

Biscuits would be lovely thanks. Preferably hard and sweet, like biscotti or gingernut (perfect for dunking in tea). I’m obsessed with baking Swedish biscuits at the moment so I reckon I can rustle up something to fit the bill.

Tricia Hogbin

You recently ran a workshop through Newcastle’s Fair Share Festival. Sharing with participants some of your story on simplifying life and changes you had made, (both as an individual and as a family) while also helping others in how they might be able to learn to live better with less. It’s a topic that seems constant as more and more people are wanting to step off what they’ve often unknowingly signed up for. While actions like this can often seem unachievable to people, words and stories like yours become more and more important. As it gives hope, encourages change, and while offering an opportunity for resilience within our communities. All things that many of us hold importance to. What are some of those things in life that are a priority for you?

Health and resilience – mine, my family’s and that of our environment are my greatest priorities. It’s a simple statement – but it captures all that is most important to me. Its brevity doesn’t reflect the time I’ve put into considering and defining my priorities.

A clear vision of what is most important has helped to ensure that I spend my time on my priorities. I’m now less distracted by other people’s priorities. It’s easier to say ‘no thank you’, even to great opportunities.

Knowing what is most important also gives me the confidence to make decisions that others may not understand. Many people won’t understand why we’ve chosen to live in a tiny home – and before that a shed and even a tent when the shed was too hot. But I’m not concerned with what other people think – because my family’s priorities guided these decisions. Patience and compromise enables us to live on a rural property without being burdened by debt. We’ve made choices so that we aren’t forced into being a dual income family. The life we want to live can’t happen if both my husband and I are away from home most days.

Making time for what matters is something I know is close to both our hearts. While I seem to regularly need to remind myself of that, do you think it’s something that comes easy to you?

Making time for what matters has been a challenge. I’d shuffle my actions to more accurately reflect my priorities – and feel that everything was under control. Then I’d slowly start saying yes to more opportunities. Because how could I not – ‘it’s a great opportunity!’, or ‘it’s for a worthwhile cause’. Then I’d find myself back where I’d started – sick, or overwhelmed and making decisions that didn’t always match my ideals – because I didn’t have time to do otherwise.

I see-sawed like this between overwhelm and calm for many years – until two years ago. I injured my back and was forced to step away from paid work for a few months. A few days after my injury, Plain Buddhist Monk Bhante Jason Chan, who I had met only briefly a year earlier, turned up on our doorstep and asked if he could stay for his rains retreat – a time when wandering Buddhist monks traditionally stay put for a while.

For three months I fell into a slow daily routine. Each morning in my kitchen, while I prepared wholesome nourishing food, I’d ask Bhante a question or two about simple living. Then I’d listen to him chant before his meal, and then I’d spend the afternoon contemplating what I wanted to achieve with my life. It was a luxury I’m extremely grateful for.

Pausing and giving serious thought to what I wanted to achieve with my ‘one wild and precious life’ (to quote Mary Oliver) gave me the confidence to say ‘no thank you’ to my dream job. Just days before my back injury I’d finished one job so that I could accept another. It was a position I couldn’t resist – working in science, communication and conservation for an organisation I respected. But the position would have turned our family life upside down. It meant regular trips to Sydney, juggling before and after school care, and left little time for me to garden or simply wander through the forest. In that three months, I realised that despite it being my dream job – saying ‘no thank you’ was the right decision for me and my family.

Since that one hard decision – all other no thank you’s have been easier. Prioritising what’s most important becomes easier the more you practise it.

Tricia Hogbin

You have a big following on instagram, with people looking forward to your posts in both words and pictures, drawing their own strength from within that. How do you think it fits with today’s fast media culture, and living a consciously slower lifestyle? Where do you draw your strength from? (doesn’t have to be social media based!)

I love that social media is an easy way to inspire and be inspired. I love the enthusiasm the Instagram community has for (hashtag) slow living, foraging, growing your own food, zero waste, minimalism, and tiny houses. These ‘trends’ each have the potential to contribute to people living a more sustainable life that is kinder on our planet.

But note I say only ‘potential’ – to truly change the way you live you need to be grateful for what you have – rather than continually yearn for more. Social media can feed that yearning for more.

Social media can also be a mindless distraction from being present. Spending too much time looking outwards also leaves little time for looking within.

I don’t feel comfortable contributing to the mass of online noise – so I am very careful with how I use social media. I consciously use it in a way that points people away from the internet (to their garden, to their family, to their kitchen, to their neighbourhood), rather than deeper within.

I also set boundaries for my own social media use. I use only one channel – Instagram. I could easily auto forward my Instagram posts to Facebook and Twitter – but doing so would feel like barging into a crowded room, shouting out a few words, and walking out again. Instead, I set aside time purely for Instagram (at the moment it’s one or two brief moments throughout the day). I share a snippet from my life, respond to comments, and visit and comment on other people’s feeds. I try to avoid mindlessly consuming (liking) without creating (posting). I value my Instagram community and treat my time in that space with the same respect I would a real-life conversation.

I also take regular breaks from social media when I feel like it’s interfering with my ability to be present. In the past I’ve declared weekends screen-free or enjoyed screen-free months. Now I simply set a timer and log off once a set period of time has passed.

I’m inspired by people I follow on Instagram – but my greatest inspiration and strength comes from real-life interactions. I gain strength from conversations with friends and family and even brief chats with other people in my neighbourhood.

I’m also inspired by memoirs – particularly those where authors share their every day in a meaningful way. Reading a memoir gives me the same sense of taking a peek into the lives of others that I get from social media – but at a slower and more meaningful pace.

tricia-03-brydie-piafIs living in a sustainable manner something that you grew up with?

I was fortunate to be greatly influenced by my grandparents. My Gran and Grandad lived a simple life – sustainable out of necessity. They lived in the house that my grandfather and great grandfather built and lived in the garage for a few years while they built the house. They ate from their garden, they mended, they made, they lived without much but yearned for little.

My Grandad kept bees and my Gran was the one who taught me to sew and garden. They gave me my first chooks. They even built me my first shade house when I was ten so I had a space to propagate my own plants. My love of nature, and particularly plants, was inherited from my Gran.

Although sustainable living wasn’t something my parents consciously thought about – they gave me a childhood with ample time to explore nature. Weekday afternoons were spent roaming local bushland, weekends were spent at the beach and we went camping a couple of times each year. I believe it is this time in nature that sparked my passion for nature conservation and in turn sustainable living.

You live in a small home (14.5 sqm or 29 if you include the verandah) with your partner and 9 year old daughter. Surrounded by vegetable growing, micro greens, chooks, dogs, horses and a rugged mountain backdrop for your morning garden wanders. Where did you imagine yourself to be 10 years ago? Was the imagery anything like the reality you now live in?

Ten years ago I was working full time, and we were renovating a small inner-city cottage as our ‘forever home’. Childhood dreams to live in the country had been abandoned (because work was in the city). I couldn’t envisage any other life at that stage. Urban sustainable living was a passion – because that’s all I thought was on offer for me. I couldn’t (or wouldn’t dare let myself) have imagined a life like the one I’m now enjoying.

I’m grateful that we noticed an opportunity for change, fell in love with a piece of land, and were willing to take risks.

Where do you see yourself in another 10 years?

Ten years from now I hope to be travelling Australia in a camper van with Mike. Liv would have finished high school the year earlier – so our attention will shift from home to exploring and adventure.

In the meantime we hope to plant an orchard and build a larger, but still small, home. I’d be happy in a tiny home indefinitely, but Mike wouldn’t be. And I’m guessing Liv will grow tired of sharing a room with her parents one day. I hope the next ten years also includes a flock of ducks and a herd of milking goats.

Tricia || Brydie Piaf

What do you get asked the most when people find out you live in a tiny home?

How do you cope?’ is probably the most common question.

Having a clear vision of what we are working towards (a resilient and debt-free future) helps us cope with the challenges of small space living.

It also helps that we choose to laugh rather than cry. There’s been lots of laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation.

Having other spaces to go when we need quiet also helps. Mike has the shed to retreat to. Liv has an old caravan set up as a playroom (a space I am especially grateful for when she has friends over). And if I need my own space I plead with Mike and Liv to “please go away for a while” – always said with a laugh and a cheeky grin. It’s impossible to hold grudges or drag on disagreements in such a small space.

“Learning to live better with less” and “Trying to tread lightly. Growing, foraging, simplifying and tiny home living.” Are both tag lines that you go by, if you wrote a book, what would the title be? 

I change my mind often about what I want to the title of my first book (a memoir about our ‘tree change’) to be.

A current favourite is ‘Not a shed, or a tent, or a caravan, or a shipping container – but a real house’. They’re my daughters words. Her teacher was laughing as she relayed them to me. The class was asked what they wanted to remind their adult selves. Common responses included “to not drink” or “to not smoke”. Liv confidently responded with “To live in a house. A real house. Not a shed, or a tent, or a caravan, or a shipping container – but a real house”. She’s lived in all these places over the past few years. Its an experience that even she acknowledges has been worthwhile. I love that she knows happiness is possible no matter where you live. And I especially love she’s learnt to be patient and to be grateful for what she has – rather than always wanting more. I know she is a far more resilient person than she would have been without this adventure.

What are some of your favourite things in life in 10 words or less?

Shared cuppas, homegrown & foraged meals, laughing with Mike & Liv.

A perfect ending to a wonderful chat. Thank you Tricia, for always inspiring.

conversations-with-community

Conversations with Community– a new series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing truly inspiring things. These are some of the people quietly changing things up, following untravelled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.

Go on, take a few extra minutes to meet these inspiring wonderful women here.