Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Living lightly

Last weekend I spent mostly in the company of folk who are involved with our local EcoCentre, and/or have an interest in sustainability as we had a 'Living Lightly ~ Sustainable Lifestyle safari' today, as well as the usual Saturday morning coffee group that meets up. We had a couple from Palmerston North with us, one of whom Corrina is a researcher at Massey University and she'd come up to do some interviews with some people who had completed a sustainability survey and other folk who fit the category she was looking for. As I was suggesting several names across the country to her on Saturday I was reminded of a comment Sandy had made at Summer Gathering; she said when she started working in environmental activism (she works for ) she started coming across Quakers at every turn, she'd no idea so many were that active in the field before! So small wonder that I'd met Corrina before as a result of her having a Young Friend as a research assistant a few years back who'd been asked to find focus groups up and down the country! Yet another example of the connectivity of Quakers and the few degrees of separation between us.

There were other links between those of us who gathered together on Sunday, other than the obvious interest in sustainable lifestyles. Only about a third of us were part of Kaitāia TimeBank and/or Transition Towns Kaitāia and already involved with the EcoCentre. But being a small town/rural community there were many and varied ways in which most of us knew some of the others, even if only by sight. (We did have one couple though who had come up from Whāngārei just for our safari so there was a bit of added pressure on those of us who had planned the event for it to live up to expectations!) Connections between us were things like friends, relatives, genealogy, golf, work, neighbours etc. But here we all were with a shared interest in living more sustainably, not an aspect of our lives we'd necessarily all known about each other before.

We car pooled for the event where we visited four very different properties and approaches to 'living lightly' in the world. This not only improved our collective environmental footprint, but made parking easier at each place and added to the networking opportunities the day presented. Future shortcuts to finding the person/information we need perhaps?!

Having been hearing about the rammed earth houses in Ahipara for some time now it was great to finally get to see one of them and hear from Heeni about how they came to be built. The feel of a rammed earth floor was amazing, especially when there was a concrete floor in the kitchen and bathroom to compare it to - like walking on hard sand at the beach compared to a hard pavement. And that was with floor coverings down too rather than bare earth (although we did get to lift the corner of the mats up and try that too!) I found myself dithering over my Tiny House dream - up until now I'd been convinced that one on a trailer was the way forward for me so I could move it as well as myself over the years. But that floor felt so good... also I loved Jen's kitchen in her ferro-concrete 'sculpture' house, but that would be far easier to replicate either on or off a trailer. Although I again felt torn between my wish for simplicity and an uncluttered life, and my lifelong love for something that looks like it comes out of a children's picture book! I think somewhere there must be a happy medium between minimalism and organized chaos that works for me.

The afternoon had fewer revelations for me, I'm already familiar with Lyn's 'Pigtits and parsley sauce' website/book/facebook page, although I did pick up a couple of tips I'd hitherto missed. And the final property was where I used to live, so the only surprise was how much different the bottom of the vineyard looks now William has taken the vines out between the olive trees (which have superceded the vines as the main crop). I have to say the grounds are doing well out of his retirement!

I can't see me ever reaching 80% food self-sufficiency as Jen has, not on my own that's for sure, but living as part of a community swapping food surpluses to meet the needs I can't supply myself etc is certainly something I'd like to be do better at. I need to improve my gardening skills though to have much to offer other than quinces and Golden Queen peaches which we generally tend to have a glut of regardless of my efforts! Although we did get to the point of giving away broad beans by the bagful this year. We've got an EcoCentre project we're planning that I'll blog about some other time to encourage local food sourcing which I'm quite excited about which will help keep food miles down and encourage collaboration. It was quite funny seeing how many of us related to Jen's inspiration of growing up watching The Good Life (available to watch on YouTube I have just discovered!) and pouring over John Seymour's Self-Sufficiency book!

The main aspect of the day was coming away inspired, and determined to do more with our garden. I really need to start putting a bit more effort in in terms of educating myself rather than relying on my usual haphazard Darwinian approach - only the fittest survives out there! Once in the ground plants get little in the way of specific help and I've not been very good at planning where they get put in the first place, although I do use the companion planting book we've got to try to avoid the worst combinations.

We're planning to do another similar safari day, perhaps later in the year. I wonder what changes I'll have implemented here by then, and what ideas I'll've been able to draw on. It's good to know that I've got a good bunch of folk around to support me on this journey and that I've added a few more names to that list after this weekend.

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