Saturday, August 29, 2009

Relax! This works...

I have been knitting a scarf out of some bamboo/cotton fibre that I got for a whole $1 per ball at the op shop. It is beautifully soft and a pretty antique pink colour. I am just doing straight knitting -nothing fancy, no pattern, no counting. I came home from work the other day and sat for 10 minutes or so knitting -not watching TV, not listening to anything -just knitting. I noticed that my breathing slowed right down, and that I felt more relaxed than I had before I started.

It occurred to me then that I am often surprised at the activities which help me, make me feel better and more hopeful and more energetic, and those which do not.

I am surprised to discover that, in this journey towards the simple life, that when I am cooking I am totally focused on the task at hand, and that even though cooking can be quite energetic, I am usually happier than before . I used this knowledge yesterday when I felt that, having had a very stressful week at work, I needed to make sure my weekend was restorative. It was quite cold outside and with two sick men in the house, there were not so many options open to me. So I decided to cook up a storm -making banana chip cookies, banana bread and a loaf in the bread maker.

The end result -little 'treats' to have with coffee, the satisfaction of a job well done, a feeling of abundance about the place.

The same thing happens when I work in the garden. It is hard work, it is often very repetitive, but the elation which comes after I have had a morning in the garden is hard to find from many other sources. When I go out and pick my own cauliflowers or a bunch of nasturtiums for the house, then that feeling of self-reliance, of abundance, of richness -is very powerful.

Watching TV is of course supposed to be relaxing. It certainly slows the metabolism down, but I am not confident that it has much of a restorative effect on me. I feel after it a bit like you do if you take a sleeping pill -sort of rested, sort of muddled and not really refreshed.

In contrast, I have devoured a novel this weekend -bought second hand from a bookshop -one of the Donna Leon novels about a detective in Venice. It was a true escape -entertaining, relaxing, witty-and let's face it there is not much on TV which can really be said to be of the same standard.

When my DH and I get up awfully early to go for an hour's walk around our suburb before we go to work, we are going against the received wisdom of our society largely -that sleeping in is better than getting up, and that driving is better than walking. Not many walkers accompany us in the depths of our winter, and even in the better weather the numbers of walkers or joggers are small in comparison with the number of people in our suburb. Yet when I make myself go out like this I inevitably find that -about half the way around-I suddenly feel more alive, more aware of the beauty around me, more hopeful and more energetic.

If this is true -that these simple activities are actually restorative -and yet they cost very little-then it would seem that most of us are hoodwinked into spending our money on things which will do us very little good. A night out once in a while is fantastic -and I love live music as much as anyone -but I do not need a hectic social life or expensive toys or entertainments to restore my sense of well being.

What I need mostly is to take notice of what works and what doesn't -and to do more of the stuff that works.

I hope you have had a relaxing weekend.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spring is coming

I have bought myself a mini greenhouse to set up to grow the lovely heirloom seeds I bought from Yilgarn Traders who work in a garden in Geraldton, so I have great hopes for tough-to-WA plants! I have had only patchy success at growing seeds and potting on, so it is time I got my skills up on this important task.

Yilgarn traders have a website here.

I have three kinds of tomatoes, a capsicum, some 7 year beans, and catnip! My cat has never shown much interest in it, but perhaps if it was fresh?

My 'green manure crop is up in the new raised garden bed -it will seem strange to turn these lovely plants into the soil in a month or so, but this is where the tomato seedlings are going to go and it should give them an excellent start.

We have been harvesting broccoli, which is almost finished and just this week got our first cauliflower. I was amazed at how crisp the fresh cauliflower was -just goes to show the stuff we usually buy has been wilting for days before we get it. The cabbages are just hearting now -must remember to start earlier with them for next year.

The new pomegranate trees we planted a month ago are now shooting forth the most gorgeous red leaves -you can just see them in the picture above-they are going to be such a good addition to the front garden, as they will offer fruit and flowers and shade for some plants during the summer, whilst letting the sun get through in the winter time.

We have had two weeks of rain -such a joy after so many dry years -and everything is looking great. The picture above is a 'happy wanderer' which has happily made its home in my backyard -don't you love volunteers -especially when they look this good!

On the negative side, we have found white ants (termites) in the wood surround of our front door. This was a pretty scary time as I found myself worried about the roof frame being affected, but not wanting to dose everything in the garden with chemicals -the usual treatment. Fortunately we found a company which takes the low impact approach, with targeted baits and low toxicity poisons which are safe for animals etc. This treatment was a lot more expensive than the chemicals but when I said to my DH "I don't want to drench the soil with chemicals as we are growing vegetables and fruit" , he replied "Of course!" Love that man!

It will take about six months for us to be sure that the termites are no longer active, and at that stage we will need to replace the door and its surround. On the positive side, that means an opportunity to get something prettier than the 1970s orange glass sidelight that the house now has. I am thinking of something with decorated glass and a door with glass insets which let more light into the entrance.

All of this extra expense has come at a time when we are still recovering from the driveway project -which was one third more expensive than we imagined-and at a time when the breadmaker, the dishwasher and the clothes dryer all need replacing! (the dryer is only used to finish off the clothes we dry under the eaves but there are times -like when it rains for two weeks-when it is important) . We have replaced the bread maker and the dryer, so hopefully the dishwasher can be replaced soon and we can then start saving again.

That is life, though. I am aiming to keep concentrating on all the good stuff and celebrating every growing thing in my garden and my life.

Thanks for coming by to read my blog -I am quite a fan of blogging - I find it a great network of people all sharing their lives and their stories, their failures and successes. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Generosity is a subversive act!

The picture of my passionfruit is an example of the generosity of the natural world. It has grown so much since I planted it just a few months ago. We now cannot see the ugly fence that dominates this picture above.

I have been giving to it in return -lots of care and attention. I hope that in the future I will have passionfruit in abundance -and be able to give them away too!

I have been thinking about what are gifts and what does it mean to give. I thought it might be timely to follow up the 'stingy' post of last week with a balance about generosity.

I know that some people come to the 'simply living movement" out of a sense of chaos in their personal finances -perhaps they are struggling with their mortgage, or they have maxed out their credit cards, or they never have anything put away for a rainy day. Simplicity helps them get control of their finances and find out how to live without over-reaching themselves all the time. There is nothing wrong with that at all. We were in a similar position once when my DH was made redundant. It was at the worst possible time when we had just bought our first house after 20 years of living in church homes and the mortgage was fierce.

For people who are struggling to make ends meet, there is a great need just to watch every penny and if they need to cut down on their charitable donations and such, that is what they need to do. If they need to sell their surplus things to make a few extra dollars, fine.

For my DH and myself however we are now living more simply because of other reasons and there is now room for more in the way of generosity.

Earlier this year DH gave away his beloved old Single Lens Reflex film camera. Now, this was a constant companion on our holidays in the early days. He loved it to bits. But it had been unused for years and when he found it again in the top of the walk in wardrobe, he decided to do something. He could have taken it to a dealer, but they would have said it was not worth much, and then he would have felt upset that his beloved camera had no value. Instead he "Freecycled" it -to someone who will value it as much as he does. Win all round!

We have had great satisfaction in signing up as regular supporters of St Judes' school in Tanzania where we help 8 girls go to boarding school (read about St Judes here)

There is a very moving post about getting rid of a sense of entitlement over at Notes from the Frugal Trenches which explains very eloquently why a generous spirit is so right for most of us. We live in a very rich nation in Australia, and in many other Western countries, and we have homes and food and medicine. So much of the world does not share these things.

Simple giving however does not have to only involve giving things or money. In my experience most people just need to have someone who will consistently give them some time to be listened to, and nearly everyone is in need of being thanked more. I try to make sure that I smile at the people on my street who don't look like the rest of us because that I hope, makes them feel a bit more at home and not so lost and strange.

In our world of grasping and greed we need more of us to just give away what we have to give. I hope you feel the same!