The Ethics of Almost

coppa

The other day I was making a belated breakfast for myself. As I was assembling this quick meal of picnic dregs, it struck me that two of the ingredients fitted into the ‘local, ethical and awesome’ category, and one did not. So I took a photo. 

Then i posted the photo with a caption that read:

“The most incredible Coppa made from local, happy pigs, local cheese and, er, distinctly un-local vitawheats. 80% awesome, 20% reality.”

The reaction was what I expected – an obligatory ‘you’re a murderer’ (I just delete or let that stuff slide these days, the why of which is another conversation) comment, a few ‘yep, me too’ types and a bunch of ‘you know what you could have done to make it 100% awesome’ comments.

But this breakfast was 100% awesome, to me. As always, it comes down to context.

It was 38 degrees celcius outside that day. Which meant that baking bread or crackers or anything else requiring any sort of baking was out.of.the.question.

Why? Because we have a woodstove. Which we run off fallen timber and thinnings from our forest, in a quest for a life based on resilient, low-footprint cooking solutions.

Could I have devised alternative baking stations? Sure I could have. I could have dedicated half of yesterday to using my mother in law’s gas oven over the hill. I could have.

I could have built an outside woodfired double-chambered cobb pizza oven by now, and have spent 6 hours baking in that, yesterday. All true.

But I didn’t. And I haven’t.

In other words, I’m not fully engaged in The Home Economy.

This is not a rant or an apology for having vitawheats in the cupboard for those days when we need them. Truly. I’m ok with it.

What I am more and more aware of, however, is that, for anyone living between the worlds of The Home Economy and The Current Economy, this happens all the time. Of course.

My friend who was too busy/tired from  prepping and teaching sourdough-making classes to make bread for her family, and who ended up at the supermarket buying bread so there was something for school lunches, shaking her head at herself all the while.

The time we home-slaughtered and processed three pigs, then immediately went to visit family and, because of work commitments and detours associated with teaching sustainable living, showed up with no home-grown meat, and ended up going to the supermarket for sausages.

My other friend who was so busy building online tools for regenerative farmers and trying to meet the deadline that he ended up living on 2-minute noodles for a week, so that he could get it all done and keep his promises to others.

My point is this: if we (or any of my friends above) were fully engaged in The Home Economy, we might have avoided such ironic incidents. But then, if we were fully engaged in The Home Economy, we wouldn’t have much time to do anything else.

You can make it all at home yourself. It’s true.

If you choose to dedicate 100% of your time to it, you can grow, cook, make, scavenge, barter and devise prettymuch everything you ‘need’ to live a healthy life. Hooray for homesteading.

Sometimes I wish that was me. Focussed on investing my heart and soul and life entirely in The Home Economy. I know some incredible folks that choose to live like that, and they are some of my heroes.

But. I guess, apon reflection, we’ve chosen not to.

We try to be as DIY as we possibly can, but we also run a small business, have employees, run a truck, do marketing, teach in the city, advocate, consult, encourage, blog, create spreadsheets, and drink coffee. Sometimes out of takeaway cups, if we’ve forgotten our re-usable ones.

All in the name of encouraging up-skilling and being the change and awareness of our capacities to design and implement solutions as well as problems and all that sort of thing.

When we travel down to the city for teaching, there’s an eski of home-made passata and veggies and stewed fruits and meat in the truck. There’s a thermos and bottles of water. There’s containers of home-dried apple.

We bring what we can. Mostly because sourcing clean food in the city is costly, and this way we can eat as healthily as we can while we’re doing what we do.

Which doesn’t make us heroes, it just makes us people who want to rely on our own resources and food that we know is clean, where possible.

But by the end of a weekend in the city, we’ve always cleaned out the eski and we’re munching on salad rolls and coffees from the corner store like everyone else in Redfern. And then we get to go home again, recoup, and keep on with it all.

All in all, I’m completely ok with this balance.

I figure that if you’re going to engage partially with The Current Economy for whatever reason, you probably have to accept that you can’t engage 100% in The Home Economy at the same time.

I do think that aspects of home-grown, locally sourced and organic living can be incorporated into anyone’s life, no matter what. It can be as simple as things like sprouts on the windowsill, kombucha on the shelf, a worm-farm in the laundry, taking your lunch with you.

But I also think we need to stop beating ourselves up, or worse, beating others up about this sort of thing. Use what you have, do what you can.

Back to that photo I took. The reason why I wanted to share it was to share the glittering irony of The Ethics of Almost.

This picture says a lot of things to me. It says that I am fortunate enough to live in a place where I can access amazing local, ethically produced clean food. It says that I don’t have a summer oven, and that it is hot.

It says that I do (cringe) choose to go to woolworths, to buy time-saving staples like butter and pasta and back-up bread substitutes. In a small town like ours, the alternative outlets are few.

It says that I’m smirking at myself, eyes wide open. That aiming to live lightly is a balance of available resources, and choices, and priorities.

A big thing. And a very small thing. It’s nothing. But it also matters.

Will I one day hit the point where everything we eat is from scratch and we’re simultaneously doing everything else that we see as important to do? Probably not.

But will we always grow some of our own food, and make most things ourselves, and consider the choices that we make? Hell yes.

Here’s to doing your best and being grateful for what you have.

62 Comments

  1. Cameron Little
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great post Kirsten.

  2. Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink | Reply

    So perfectly synchronous! I was just right before I got this post in my inbox talking about the very same kinds of choices and ethics. When is enough enough? And when would doing more result in me needing to do much less in terms of advocacy and other earth healing things? Thank you for keeping it real. :)

  3. Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    This is probably the most important message you’ve ever shared. Zealotry is not sustainable. Ever. Love it.

  4. Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    Nice one Kirsten :) I’m totally OK with our balance too. 3 kids, home businesses, farm, horses blah blah have found myself in the “sourdough” lady scenario as well with my own enterprises….

  5. Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    “Here’s to doing your best and being grateful for what you have.” Amen! I’ve had these conversations, mostly in my own head, for several years. To me the important thing is to be mindful of the choices we are making and to occasionally check in with ourselves that we are in alignment with what matters most to us.

  6. Brad McDonald
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for this post! I think part time self sufficiency should be encouraged, not criticized for not going far enough. Even shifting from battery eggs to true free range without doing anything else is better than nothing!

  7. Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink | Reply

    Awesome!

  8. Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    What you & your family are doing is inspirational, educational, informational and real… if some people expect perfection from you, or think you are hypocritical, that says more about them, than what it does about you! I think, haters are gonna hate. Not much anyone can do about them. Other than not be one, and not beat yourself up, either.

    The balancing act is one of the trickiest things I have found since we started our ‘lower impact living’ and ‘urban homesteading’ journey five years ago. I’ve gotten to the point where most of the time I feel confident and content in my decisions and choices. Mostly because I am starting to let go of ‘what other people think’!

  9. Erich
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink | Reply

    I sometimes wonder if our community was much larger this would change. If your neighbors participated, if an entire community held the same core beliefs, well….

  10. Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink | Reply

    Yes. Absolutely. We do what we can. And, actually, we do have to engage with the world as it is, sometimes, and not as we might want it to be. Small steps. And the people working in Woolworths need our dollars for their pay too. It is something of a shame that the corner shops here in Redfern have all closed – they are on almost every street corner. Coles and Woollies did them out of business. I am growing salads in polystyrene boxes – how about that for another irony. But it is the best I can do in the city right now. Roll on the new year for new ventures. Happy Local Christmas everyone and may your carrots grow straight and long next year. x

  11. nancy
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink | Reply

    When “fast food” or take away came in we used to grab a meal when we were flat out doing major things,but most of the time DIY and grew ate and lived clean. When we(society ) started eating out or take away more often than making our own meals was when health and diet issues became apparent. Moderation and Balance in all things. Just how much you can do yourself or be aware of the ethics involved in production needs to be within you lifestyle. You’re right beating ourselves up of should would or could have is as detrimental to ourselves as eating unclean food. Good on you for the post, many of us needed to be reminded.

  12. Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve run headlong into this dichotomy a few times, and I am aware of the irony. I’ve come up with an answer for the merely curious as well as the sniffing critics.

    – I create beauty where and how I can. Any life where you get to create beauty is a life worth having.

  13. Jenny
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink | Reply

    80% is more sustainable than 0%. Imagine if the whole world could achieve 80%!

  14. code4pay
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    The issue I see is that there is not enough of a infrastructure around you with the same intent. OK your too busy to make some bread but if the local baker made vita wheat style biscuits from local orgains grain it would still have been 100% “good” ? If we have more people thinking on the same lines then the compromises will occur less and less.

    • Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink | Reply

      Exactly. And that’s a whole other, but related conversation – that if inter-sufficiency and functional local food systems supporting communities so that everyone can do what they do well while keeping life 100% awesome…

      • Craig J Phillips
        Posted December 29, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        The contribution you give in teaching others to ‘live cleaner’ justifies a vita wheat! As more learn and hopefully teach others as we’ll we will get closer to better sharing communities

      • Cath B
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        Yes ethics of almost post made me think of the Flame Tree Food Coop in Thirroul, and how delighted I am to be a part of it. I did the veggie delivery after work last night from Dapto Community Farm to the Coop (about half hour drive). So late getting home I whipped up what my housemate’s son calls a “cafe breakfast” of local organic eggs poached, tomatoes, warrigal spinach, shallots and with home-grown herbs, with organic butter from Picton and organic bread from a Sydney baker. Horray for community cooperative infrustructure!

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 7:19 am | Permalink

        You’re a lucky lot to have community infrastructure like that :)

  15. Rosie
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    With five kids, we do the same, esky full of ‘home food’, takeaway is a lovely, although expensive, treat when everything else is gone. By then, I feel like I’ve earned the break! Well said, wish I had your brekky!

  16. Maria
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink | Reply

    I hope you won’t delete my response here as I am a vegan! I am very interested in living sustainably so I’m hoping to hear as many points of view as possible even though I have no interest in consuming animal products. I have just bought a few acres so I will be implementing my own home and community economy as best I can whilst splitting my time between city and country. I can empathise with the dilemma of consuming products that have ethical concerns whether it’s food, clothing, travel etc Unfortunately having to interact in society means we have to make compromises sometimes. We need to do the best we can and you’re right – beating ourselves up will not help anyone.

  17. Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for your article, Kirsten. I’m at the early stages of just thinking about being in my garden in a sustainable way. It’s hard not to contemplate the way that many of us who grew up in aussie were raised by parents who had easier (read cheaper) access to energy. Your article is a kind of case study of the amount of embedded energy in food. You tease out a number of instances where, because of the energy involved, its tough trying to sustain the kind of broad diet that industrialised farming and distribution has made available to us, especially in cities. I find these calculations running through my head as I plant.

    This week, my three-year old cherry tree yielded four ruby-red cherries.
    A grub got one; the other three were delicious.

  18. Posted December 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Life is compromise. The trick to iving well is to know what compromises to make, and when to make them.

    We’re cooking for 28 people on Wednesday. About 75 percent of our ingredients will be home grown or sourced locally. The rest is from a supermarket. I hate the place, but there’s only so much one family can do and a compromise has to be made. Earnest effort is what matters.

  19. Posted December 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great post Kirsten. A murderer because you ate vita wheats? Would vegans count the murder and even extinction taking place over vast areas to grow wheat? Think of all the zillions of microbes and all the way up the food chain poisoned and made habitat-less for , mung beans and lentils in Canada, where most are grown. At least you can think very well Kirsten because your vitamin B 12 intake from the only source (animal products) is such to break down homocysteine which is a neuro toxin .Vegans often lack Vit B12 . or take supplements from big pharma. Good on you my lovely,
    Bee Winfield from Merri Bee Organic Farm W.A.

  20. Dean Driscoll
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    You are still a long way towards grid dependency reduction and that is brilliant. I note that Lawton is talking about just being a gardener when he feels that he has trained enough teachers. He said that in response to being questioned as to how off the grid he really is. He pointed out that in catering for 30,000 odd meals a year, there is a still a need to import but in caring for just himself and his family that would be a different story. There would have been many times when Holmgren or Mollison or Ro Morrow or whoever we care to name would have had to eat food from sources that they prefer not to support while teaching. Step by step the changes come and your work is an important part of that process.

    • Posted December 23, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

      6 years ago I was doing the cooking on a PDC at PRI and I was sourcing 95% of the food from supermarkets. Partly because Geoff + Nadia were focussed on overseas projects at the time and so hadn’t focussed on food production for their on-farm courses as a priority at that point. So it goes.

  21. Posted December 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Meant good on you for eating local most of the time and helping us all to make moves away from the dominant paradigm . Know the thing about coming out of the organic markets and having to have a pie from a servo half way home. Trying also to alert vegans of the health dangers of their diet and say grass fed, organic and local animal products are the best we can support for reversing climate change . Thanks for providing our community.
    Bee

  22. Posted December 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well said Kirsten. I understand entirely and am glad for your saying it. By the way. I thought it was a cool photo.

  23. Posted December 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    don’t tell anyone but…yesterday we got waylaid in the garden after goat milking and (I’m blushing as I type this) got the Bean Counter to pick up fish and chips on the way home.

  24. Posted December 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Kirsten, I am sorry there are detractors.We do our bit, you do more than your bit and educate and entertain us in the process.Do, be, think local but if it ain’t there it ain’t there. There are only so many hours in the day and we prioritise. No need to justify.

  25. Posted December 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    You’re just human

  26. Posted December 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Always love your honesty, Kirsten. I figure that, by preferencing home grown food we give our kids and selves a bit of practical knowledge and psychological readiness for tougher times – and we can feel better about contributing less to the health issues facing us and our poor world. What we gain by not being purists with self-sufficiency is equally important – who wants to alienate kids, partner, friends etc by being a stressed out zealot?
    I’m sorry some vegetarians attack you. (It’s a strange journey, the one away from meat-eating. I think activists “advocate” strongly to relieve the awful distress of empathising with animals being processed. We don’t want to know their ordeal – we just do, and we so much want it to stop). Hurling abuse is mean, and counter-productive, especially when dished out at a woman who is doing so much to further the ethical/sustainable lifestyle cause, by promoting Smart Permaculture (rather than Cult Pc) and by fessing up when the practice doesn’t match expectations!! Reckon that takes courage – permies can be just as territorial and competitive as the next guy…
    In case you haven’t seen it, her’s a link to Peter Harper’s take on Smart Pc

    http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/articles/permaculture-big-rock-candy-mountain

    I think it’s absolutely brilliant that you process some animals on the farm!
    Can’t wait to come visit Milkwood.
    Ange

  27. Posted December 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Always love your honesty, Kirsten. I figure that, by preferencing home grown food we give our kids and selves a bit of practical knowledge and psychological readiness for tougher times – and we can feel better about contributing less to the health issues facing us and our poor world. What we gain by not being purists with self-sufficiency is equally important – who wants to alienate kids, partner, friends etc by being a stressed out zealot?
    I’m sorry some vegetarians attack you. (It’s a strange journey, the one away from meat-eating. I think activists “advocate” strongly to relieve the awful distress of empathising with animals being commercially processed. We don’t want to know their ordeal – we just do, and we so much want it to stop). Hurling abuse is mean, and counter-productive, especially when dished out at a woman who is doing so much to further the ethical/sustainable lifestyle cause, by promoting Smart Permaculture (rather than Cult Pc) and by fessing up when the practice doesn’t match expectations!! Reckon that takes courage – permies can be just as territorial and competitive as the next guy…
    In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to Peter Harper’s take on Smart Pc

    http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/articles/permaculture-big-rock-candy-mountain

    I think it’s absolutely brilliant that you process some animals on the farm!
    Can’t wait to come visit Milkwood.
    Ange

  28. Posted December 23, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m totally 100% with you. On the meat side of things and on the quest for a life based on resilience, and low-footprint living.

    Before cheap fuel existed people walked to the store, or used a horse and sulky (we have one of each), or maybe these days a mountain bike with a basket or backpack. Now when I have $100 I think of the alternatives to filling the Ute up with diesel or what else could this be used for ?

    As for resilient farming with the couple of sheep and goats and a dozen or more chooks. If I grow them, and thank them for living I too can be self sufficient in meat as well as corn, lettuce and tomotoes and all the othe things we can grow.

    What gets me is a friend of mine who says he is a vegetarian and yet grows pigs and chickens on his farm for income. Hippocratic or just confused I’m not sure.

  29. Stuart Jeffrey
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well done with your post, well thought out and well written in my opinion. Not much point choosing to do something and then feeling guilty about it; been there done that lots in the past, And what a wonderful place to be in, to be able to choose to cook/eat solely from ones property, or to buy some or all of our food from a supermarket; we’re so well off in our countries (I’m in NZ) that we can choose at all, that we can choose to eat or fast! Yum, full of appreciation for being happy and healthy and knowing it. Happy holidays.

  30. Posted December 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    You can’t make everything from scratch all of the time. Thank you for being real. You are doing more than most and should be very proud. I wish more people would keep it real because when I have to comprise I feel bad. I like to hear the realities of simple living and work. You are doing an amazing job. Merry Christmas:)

  31. Desiree
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Kirsten,
    Yes, the obligatory ‘you’re a murderer’. How do vegetarians think that animals die in the wild? From old age? If they are not ripped apart by wild dogs or feral cats, and they manage to keel over at a ripe age (not likely), the crows will be eating their eyes before they are dead. Good on you for eating meat from pigs who have enjoyed the high life a (no malnutrition, parasites, predators etc) and then had a swift and painless death.

  32. Anna
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Lol i have caught myself opening a bag of pre-washed, precut salad with the same guilt i used to reserve for a bag of chips! Spot on kirsten!

  33. Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love this post!

  34. Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    One other ray of hope in your pocket… there’s always next year! With there only being my husband and myself, we’ve learned that there is only so much you can put on that “Special Project List” for 2 people to accomplish in 4 seasons. And most require allowing only 1 or 2 of those 4! There is fun and pats on the back to be found when you look back over the years passed since where you began. Don’t count yourself short. You can claim the fact that ‘ you will get there! ‘ Just be realistic about choosing your annual projects!

  35. sztownsend
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 1:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    Love this! Very well said:) I find myself doing similar things and have tried to let go of the guilt and just do the best I can whenever I can and let the rest go:)

  36. Jay
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 1:46 am | Permalink | Reply

    Two things:

    – You can bake bread in a slow cooker to avoid heating up the house (or the wood-fire oven.) The crust doesn’t come out quite the same as conventionally baked bread, but a few minutes in a toaster or near a flame will fix that.

    – The fact that there is 20% reality isn’t an indictment on you yourself (and my how some people like to put all of the focus on the individual) but rather it is a comment about the way our society is organized. If we had strong communities that shared produce, it would be simple to borrow a few pieces of homemade sourdough bread from the neighbor, or to swap a few homemade sausages for a jar of honey. But that’s not how our society works at all. Most everyone is dependent upon mass produced food shipped halfway around the world to be sold from supermarket shelves, and no person is an island.

    True sustainability and self-sufficiency comes from community and not from any one individual. You can’t be every link in the chain, no matter how hard you try.

  37. Posted December 24, 2013 at 5:33 am | Permalink | Reply

    The saddest indictment of society at the moment is the fact that you have to explain yourself in this post. I might be vegan but I am most certainly not going to tell anyone else how to live their lives. My choice is my own personal choice and I don’t feel the need to lecture other people about theirs. The “Clean Living” brigade have done more damage to our communal psyche than good in my opinion. Where did all of this collective guilt come from over a humble packet of vitawheat?!!! The day when you feel the need to explain your actions to some self righteous “other” is the day that society has truly hit rock bottom. I am sorry you get rants from vegans. I cringe every time I read this sort of thing. I am sorry that the “felt hatter brigade” feel the need to outdo each other and the rest of the world and I am UBER sorry that we all fell into this trap of competing with each other over who made the best hemp underpants and who managed to birth their twins in rosewater and who was able to meditate their way through open heart surgery without anaesthetic…since when did being “human” require a PHD in nutrition and psychology and “Bad Ass”?!!! I fully appreciate and approve of your way of life. The road that straddles all walks of life is going to take you the furthest. Have an excellent Christmas. Eat what you like, drink what you like, feel NO guilt and have a great time :)

  38. Paul
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink | Reply

    You need a solar oven for those hot days. They are so simple. Even in winter they reach 150C. I set mine up in the driveway nearly every sunny day.

  39. Posted December 24, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    Word.

  40. Posted December 24, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink | Reply

    You said it! We are living our lives not in theory, but in practice, and every day we make many small decisions that hopefully lead us towards overall balance and engagement with our local environment and our deepest commitments. The goal, I think, is to be conscious of our choices and the reasons for them, but not to be overly tied to an unyielding orthodoxy of any kind. I loved this post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  41. Ponny
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink | Reply

    Kirsten, thank you, thank you, thank you. As someone who did the Intro to Permaculture with Nick in August (I’m the guy who drove down from Cairns for the course), I’ve been struggling a bit with the challenge of ‘the ethics of almost’ (I love that term!). I’ve spoken with a few experienced permies up here and they’ve tried to allay my concerns as I attempt to implement permaculture principles on my 15 acre property on the beautiful Atherton Tablelands in FNQ. I’m loving the challenge but reading your post has helped me put back into perspective what we have already achieved and what is possible. But for the moment, I’m not gonna beat myself up and am relying on a little saying I used when I retired ‘early’ from the Qld public service in April this year: I AM ENOUGH, I DO ENOUGH, I HAVE ENOUGH.

  42. Posted December 26, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Right on about the reality component here: being resourceful is empowering and freeing, but the reality is we have busy lives. It should not be an all or nothing proposition. Far too often individuals balk at attempting to grow or develop their own food, because they feel overwhelmed. I usually recommend they start out with one of their favorite herbs. You have to start somewhere – it is not all or nothing. I enjoyed the photo; I enjoyed the barb. Great posting -

  43. Posted December 26, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What I think is super awesome is that while the rest of us flounder a bit and make half-baked forays into thinking things through, you manage to not only articulate it, but nail it. NAIL IT, babe. Write the damn book. I’m pre-ordering it. See you soon,
    The Sourdough Lady xxx

  44. Posted December 27, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well said Kirsten!
    It’s awesome to feel like I’m not the only one out there who has these daily dilemma’s in my life. I too live in a small town where Woolies, Coles and Aldi are the main 3 food shops. I work at a local community garden as the horticulturalist and we do have a small farmers market in Forster. After realising my favourite rice cracker biscuits were made in China I swapped to the Australian grown Sakata rice crackers!

    I guess you could say I’m the black sheep of my family and after growing up in suburban Melbourne, working as a horticulturalist and then wwoofing around Australia I finally discovered Permaculture when a guy I was mowing lawns with in Sydney handed me Bill Mollison’s ‘Introduction to Permaculture book’, it was the moment that changed my life, thanks Bill!

    I always knew there were alternative ways to living life and so my Permaculture journey started…I then met my husband in QLD and moved to the mid north coast of NSW to build our ‘dream’ house surrounded by Permaculture gardens. After we did our PDC we thankfully redesigned the house we were about to ‘owner build’, which back then we thought would only take us a year or two max…we were so green! Nine years, two kids, 20 chickens and a dog later we have a pretty awesome rammed earth, light earth and mud brick house we built from scratch. The Eucalyptus trees we cleared from our property became our bench tops and beams and whilst we are surrounded by a Eucalyptus forest we manage to grow a lot of our own food. It’s bloody hard work & some days like today I ask myself what the hell am I doing this all for and then this email popped into my inbox.

    I really enjoy reading your newsletters Kirsten and although we’ve never met, it gives me a sense of connection to the ‘Permaculture World’ that exists outside of our little town, Pacific Palms. I was lucky enough to do the Permaculture Teacher’s course with Nick and Roe in September 2012 in Sydney and once again I met some other Permies who are all on similar journeys, which gave me the energy and inspiration to continue setting up my own Permaculture business which will focus on growing and cooking food on a small scale.

    As the granddaughter of an Italian lady who spent her whole day cooking for her 9 children in front of the indoor wood oven I have decided to live this life as sustainably as I can but also to enjoy the moment and to grow as much food as I can in the time that I have available when I’m not teaching others, looking after our kids and maintaining our property. For every other purchase I try to make an informed decision. I grew up as one of seven kids eating some microwaved cooked food and thinking beetroot only came out of a can, I now enjoy the taste of home grown, freshly picked beetroot!

    I have learnt that ‘Small and Slow Solutions’ is what this Permaculture journey has been for me & I realise that it’s ok for everyone to be at a different stage of their journey to sustainable living!

    I guess it’s just nice to know that lots of us are on the same wavelength and making a real difference to the world we live in and inspiring the people around us. Hopefully one day when I get some time, I can come and meet you and tour around the farm I’ve read so much about. Keep up the inspirational work that you guys do at Milkwood and have an awesome 2014!
    Megan Cooke

  45. Vic
    Posted December 28, 2013 at 3:23 am | Permalink | Reply

    Posts like these are what make this my favourite blog out there and the one I most often recommend to people looking for resources on, well, everything to do with living better (that’s right, “better”, not “perfect”). For me, this is part two of “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can”, which has become a mantra of sorts. I second nearly everything everyone else has said, especially the Sourdough Lady’s comment: I’m waiting for that book too! And as for the nitpickers, dudes, the lady is spreading the word like no-one out there and still has time to compost her family’s poo, and we’re worrying about crackers? arrrggggh… Thanks for all the inspiration.

    +

  46. Posted December 29, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on can studio and commented:
    Stumbled across this lovely post on the Milkwood Permaculture website.
    It’s a lovely reflection on sustainable/local/fair trade consumption and the way that doing SOMETHING is better than NOTHING. Sure, there are a few heroes that to devote their lives entirely to producing or exchanging for all their needs. But for others, there will be times when there just isn’t enough time in the day or who just don’t live on large blocks of land that allow us to do so.
    Pick your battles, and be satisfied that you are doing your best.

  47. Posted December 30, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is one of the best posts ever. Thank you!

  48. Posted December 31, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Most of us are caught between two worlds. Weather I like it or not, my community, family, friends, and allot of the infrastructure I use is in the popular world. To engage with these I often have to let my values slip. But each time I do let my values down I stop and reflect on any possible way I could have done better. Perfection is in the striving for perfection, not perfection itself. A great post thanks for letting yourself, and subsequently me, off the hook.

  49. Veronique Mayne
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The striving for perfection is also a paradigm from this dominant masculine culture. It has given rise to the search for “perfect” bodies (anorexia and other dysfunctions), for “perfect” products (mass production), “perfect” children (no comment!), … a perfect God in Heaven (?!?)
    Does nature strive for perfection?…
    It is fascinating to look underneath our reactions, to see the source of our thinking…
    Honesty is such a great gift… thank you

  50. Posted January 1, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    In October this year I attended the “Introduction to Permaculture” course at Food Forest in Gawler, SA. After a warm greeting from Annemarie and Graham they ushered me to the urn to help myself to a coffee. There stood a jar of corporate-owned, shipped-across-the-world Moccona coffee granules. What did I do? I prepared myself a cup and proceeded to flick through a trestle load of books on permaculture and simply living and organic gardening. Was there anything wrong with this situation? No, for exactly the reasons you shared in this post.

    • Posted January 2, 2014 at 6:02 am | Permalink | Reply

      Aaah the good ol ‘if you’re so permaculture why are you feeding me instant coffee (even tho 95% of what I’ll consume on your farm is incredible homegrown food, I’m going to focus on the 1% experience of the coffee)… Yes we used to get that one a lot :)

      The best bit? When some old-school organic farmers came to our ag courses, they wouldn’t drink anything else… Their student feedback said ‘you need to get Nescafé’ … Ah this world…

  51. njbhasn'tmade breadpostpartum
    Posted January 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Excellent post, lovely. I am very proud of you – and I mean that in a deeply loving big-sisterly way.
    Am so buying you a thermal cooker for your birthday… doesn’t solve the bread problem, but still. God I love chest freezers for that one. Annabel Langbein has a great long-life lavosh recipe, but invariably someone eats them all…
    I am aware of a couple of community /sporting groups in deepest darkest rural NSW who disbanded partly due to the lack of volunteers, as a direct result of an ongoing case of “homegrown snobbery” i.e. didn’t make the custard with real eggs, bought a packet cake mix etc. Sad but true.
    I would love to read some posts from you about what you fed your little bloke when he was tiny and how you managed with very little time as a mum.

  52. Evan
    Posted January 5, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hey guys, I must say that my wife and I really live your blog, and everything you’re doing. You’re certainly leaps and bounds ahead of us in most respects. We enjoy our own beef, but pig, chicken and lamb are only very special occasion meats for us (until we start raising them ourselves). And the home dairy cow keeps getting put off, but we aim to have one soon :)
    Maybe just something to consider (touched on in some other comments): we are all very spoilt, really we are. Some months ago, we realised what a slave we have been to staple carbohydrates. These, believe it or not, make up the bulk of our diets, and organic or not are more or less completely fossil fuel dependent, or depleting resources and farming communities in other countries. Look up how much landmass Australia alone uses to grow wheat and the scale of this addiction becomes apparant.
    So this year we’re making some hard decisions, and really starting to question our reliance on bought grains and starches. We are certainly not zealots, but we are trying to work out what we can produce efficiently on our 3/4 acre house block & orchard – this year we’re having a crack at corn (about 15 square metres or so) as it’s far far more productive than wheat per square metre. Then dried beans, potatoes, parsnips and Jerusalem chokes (which won’t grow for us this year!)
    Yes it is more restrictive, but we enjoy the challenge. One day it would be nice to have a strong community where we could trade some nice local made tacos for a few cups of local wheat, but right now we’re in rehab and trying to undo generations of addiction.
    Love your work, just like all of us we are paddling upstream, but it’s gladdening to see more people taking on the challenge :)

  53. Shahrin
    Posted January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you so much for this post. For saving me from my own zealotry and internal self beatings for not living up to my own ideals! And reminding me to give others a break in the process!! :) Awesome.

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